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John Harvard's Journal

Settling In, Sociably

September-October 2007

On Monday morning, July 2, those members of the Harvard community who weren’t taking a pre-holiday vacation were greeted by an e-mailed “Invitation from President Faust.”

“I sit here in my new office in Massachusetts Hall, amid boxes to be unpacked, letters to be answered, and books to be shelved,” wrote Drew Faust in her capacity (officially, for 32 hours) as University president. “But the computer works just fine, and so I take this moment to write. My message, for now, is very simple. I look forward to our future adventures together with immense anticipation. I can imagine no higher calling than doing all I can to serve this great university—and helping it, in turn, to serve the world. And I feel singularly fortunate to have the opportunity to do so in concert with all of you—the faculty, students, staff, and others without whom there could be no Harvard.

“Each of us brings something different, and something significant, to our shared enterprise,” she continued. “We teach, we study, we discover, we create, we make sure the lights go on and the bills get paid. We are individual members of a collective whose opportunity to contribute to the future of learning, and the improvement of the human condition, knows few equals and few bounds.…”

Photograph by Justin Ide / Harvard News Office

President Drew Faust meets with Christopher Gordon to discuss Allston (above), and hosts a summer social in the Yard for the extended Harvard community (below).

Photograph by Justin Ide / Harvard News Office

After thanking all, in advance, “for all that I know we will undertake together,” the president then invited the entire community to her figurative new home, for “some summertime refreshments and for leisurely conversation”—an afternoon ice-cream social in Harvard Yard.

That welcoming, outward gesture was accompanied by plenty of internal work during the president’s first weeks. Faust was photographed during her first day in the office conferring with Christopher M. Gordon, chief operating officer of the Allston Development Group, on plans for the new campus. She named an acting vice president for alumni affairs and development (see “University People”), and on July 11 a new Harvard Medical School (HMS) dean, one of her most important academic appointments (see “Dr. Dean”).

The Installation On line

Drew Gilpin Faust will be formally installed as Harvard's twenty-eighth president on Friday, October 12. Harvard Magazine will post coverage of the academic symposiums, installation ceremony, and Faust's address at beginning that day and for several days thereafter. A full report on the events will appear in the print edition, mailed to readers in late October.

Shortly thereafter, the president and the deans convened their first retreat, discussing how to conduct academic planning within each school and among them—and so to proceed on University priorities involving growth in the sciences, expansion in Allston, and, ultimately, a capital campaign to pay for everything. A significant guest was Lawrence University Professor Michael E. Porter, of Harvard Business School, perhaps today’s foremost scholar of strategy for businesses and nonprofit organizations alike. As medical-school dean Jeffrey S. Flier later told HMS colleagues, on July 16, Porter had helped the deans think about clarifying their schools’ goals and strategies, measuring performance, and evaluating relative positions—all suggestive of a realistic and tough-minded approach as Harvard makes its case to friends for support now and in the future.

Specifying the elements of that future will take time: Faust’s team of deans and senior administrators is still being assembled. But the outlines and guiding principles (some sketched in “A Scholar in the House,” July-August, page 24) will become clearer soon, beginning with her remarks this fall to the entering College freshmen and their parents on September 9, at the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences’ inaugural celebration on September 20 (see “Engineering Renewed”), and in her own installation address in Tercentenary Theatre on October 12.