News in Brief

Marla Frederick and David C. Parkes, new divinity and engineering and applied sciences deans

Marla Frederick and David C. Parkes | from left: courtesy of emory university; Eliza grinnell/seas

Decanal Duo…

A professor returning to Harvard and one in continuing service have been appointed to lead Harvard Divinity School (HDS) and the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS, part of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, FAS).

President Claudine Gay announced on August 24 that Marla Frederick will become HDS dean effective January 1. A professor of African and African American studies (where Gay also held an appointment) and of the study of religion during University service from 2003 to 2019, she has most recently been at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology. A Spelman College alumna who earned her doctorate at Duke, Frederick is an ethnographer who studies religion, race, gender, media, politics, and economics; learn more at harvardmag.com/dean-frederick-23.

FAS dean Hopi Hoekstra unveiled her selection of David C. Parkes as SEAS dean on August 29. A member of the faculty since 2001, Parkes is Colony professor of computer science, co-director of the University-wide Harvard Data Science Initiative, and a Harvard College Professor (FAS’s highest honor for undergraduate teaching and advising). A scholar whose research often focuses on solving real-world problems, he spent the past academic year on sabbatical as a senior research scientist at Google DeepMind. Read more at harvardmag.com/parkes-dean-23.
 

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Douglas W. Elmendorf |
Photograph by martha stewart/courtesy of harvard kennedy School

…and Decanal Departure

Douglas W. Elmendorf, dean of the Harvard Kennedy School since 2016, announced in early September that he would step down at the end of the academic year. Elmendorf, Ph.D. ’89, a macroeconomist who directed the U.S. Congressional Budget Office before becoming dean, intends to return to teaching and research as a member of the faculty. President Claudine Gay hailed his “boundless grace, good humor, and an unwavering commitment to rigorous scholarship for the betterment of society.” She cited his own public service and said Elmendorf “has been a champion for principled, effective public policy and leadership in the face of considerable challenges to those ideals. Under his guidance, HKS has expanded its engagement across Harvard and beyond, helping researchers and practitioners translate knowledge into policy and impact” while strengthening its degree programs and intellectual prowess. Read more at harvardmag.com/kennedy-stepsdown-23.

Art Museum Moves

Martha Tedeschi, Cabot director of the Harvard Art Museums since 2016, will retire on June 30. Announcing the news, Provost Alan M. Garber hailed her for raising an “eloquent voice for the power of art to enrich our lives, to connect us with our past, and to foster understanding across cultures.” Read more about her tenure at harvardmag.com/tedeschi-23. Shortly before that transition was announced, Micha Winkler Thomas, formerly chief operating officer at The Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C., was appointed HAM’s deputy director, overseeing administrative functions, effective September 18; she fills the vacancy created when Maureen Donovan retired in July 2022. On the scholarly front, Mitra Abbaspour was named Houghton curator of modern and contemporary art, and head of the new division covering the same period: the collection from 1901 through the present. She was previously Haskell curator of modern and contemporary art at Princeton’s museum. And Laure Marest was appointed Damarete associate curator of ancient coins (the collections include more than 20,000 objects); she was Vermeule associate curator of Greek and Roman art at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts.

Upping the Allston Ante

As Massachusetts tries to assemble sufficient funding to secure federal support for the realignment of the Massachusetts Turnpike viaduct (plus associated reconfiguration of surface-level roads and the Allston-Brighton waterfront along the Charles River), Harvard offered to increase its contribution for the multimodal “West Station” transit hub from $58 million to $90 million. In its letter to Secretary of Transportation Peter Buttigieg ’04, the University said that its investment in the immediate area—including purchase of the Allston Landing sites from the state, relocation of the CSX railyard, and environmental remediation—represents an outlay of more than $500 million to date. The highway project and associated work, expected to begin in 2027 if the estimated $1.7 billion in funding is secured and to last perhaps a decade, would open to future development Harvard-owned parcels totaling nearly 100 acres.

Around Higher Education

Yale President Peter Salovey announced that he will step down at the end of the academic year; the For Humanity campaign he is leading surpassed $5 billion raised (toward a goal of $7 billion) during the summer.…Stanford president Marc Tessier-Lavigne resigned following an independent review of his research, which documented flaws in studies conducted under his supervision. The five-member scientific review committee included Harvard’s Steven E. Hyman, McPike professor of stem cell and regenerative biology and provost emeritus, and Corporation member Shirley M. Tilghman, a molecular biologist and Princeton’s president emerita.…Led by Brown, four universities and colleges negotiated a new 20-year payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement with their home city, Providence, Rhode Island. It envisions cash payments and benefits worth $223 million—more than twice the sum involved in the prior agreement, which has now expired. Some $177 million is cash, and the remainder is $46 million in benefits from Brown, such as developing additional taxable property or returning exempt property to the tax rolls.…New York University has announced that it holds no direct investments in fossil-fuel-producing enterprises and intends to reduce its indirect holdings in such companies.

Athletics Lineup

Harvard Athletics has appointed Amanda Kulik, longtime associate head coach, Costin Family head coach for women’s swimming and diving, succeeding Stephanie W. Morawski, who concluded 26 years of service. Separately, Laura Bellamy ’13 has become Landry Family head coach for women’s ice hockey, after eight seasons on the University of Minnesota Duluth staff. She was a superb Crimson goalie. And Jenny Rohn has been named head softball coach. Bellamy and Rohn both served in Crimson coaching staff roles earlier in their careers.

Higher-Ed Gifts

McPherson College, in Kansas, matched a $500-million endowment pledge—and the anonymous donor committed an additional $500 million, making for a planned billion-dollar estate gift.…NYU Long Island School of Medicine received a $200-million gift from Kenneth and Elaine Langone; it guarantees tuition-free education focusing on clinical care. Kenneth Langone is chair of the institution’s board of trustees.…The Blavatnik Family Foundation, which has given at least $250 million to Harvard Medical School to support research and applied biomedical science, made a $40-million gift to Yale’s life sciences accelerator, apparently more than doubling earlier gifts totaling some $20 million.…Blue Meridian Partners, a philanthropic group focusing on socioeconomic mobility, has committed $124 million to the HBCU Transformation Project, an effort to increase historically black colleges and universities’ enrollment 40 percent, boost their number of graduates more than 50 percent, and alleviate the institutions’ inadequate funding.

Greener Pastures

David Keith, who as professor of public policy and McKay professor of applied physics lead work at Harvard on climate engineering (see “Buffering the Sun,” July-August 2013, page 36), has decamped for the University of Chicago, where he directs a major initiative in climate systems engineering.…Joan Donovan, an expert on disinformation (see “Can Disinformation Be Stopped?” July-August 2021, page 28), has become an assistant professor at Boston University; her grant-funded Harvard Kennedy School program expired this summer and was not continued because it was not directed by a faculty member.

Admissions Alterations

In the wake of the Supreme Court ruling prohibiting consideration of race in admissions, Yale—which had been sued separately by the plaintiff, Students for Fair Admissions—settled that case and announced new policies in procedures intended to comply with the requirements while “continuing to support a diverse and inclusive community.” Among other measures, Yale will remove information about applicants’ self-identified race or ethnicity from reviewers’ purview and will not provide them with aggregate data on the racial or ethnic composition of applicant or admitted student cohort. Applicants will be given new essay prompts; Yale will use place-based data from the Opportunity Atlas and the College Board’s Landscape tool to assess economic mobility in its applicant pool; and the college will significantly increase staff training, outreach and recruiting, and ties to organizations that connect to underserved populations—including in rural areas and its home city of New Haven. It will also seek to broaden the applicant pipeline, in part by creating a summer campus program for high-achieving high school students from underrepresented backgrounds.…Brown President Christina H. Paxson appointed a committee of faculty and members of the university’s Corporation to reexamine elements of its admissions policies, including early decision, the use of standardized tests, and legacy preferences.

 

 

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Faith Online

Following a renovation of its audiovisual system, Memorial Church began live streaming Sunday services on September 3—available on the MemChurch YouTube channel. Services continue to be broadcast on WHRB and are posted on SoundCloud weekly. “Wherever you are” (and apparently whether still dressed in pajamas or not), “our church is only a click away, and our prayers and blessings will be even closer still,” said the Rev. Matthew I. Potts, Pusey Minister.

Program Pilots

Smith professor of law Ruth L. Okediji, whose scholarship focuses on the role of intellectual property in economic development, has been appointed Oppenheimer faculty director of the Center for African Studies. She succeeds Gurney professor of history and of African and African American studies Emmanuel Akyeampong, who was director for seven years and oversaw the opening of the center’s Johannesburg office.…The Law School and the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society have launched an initiative on artificial intelligence and the law; the directors are Friedman professor of law and economics Oren Bar-Gill and Walmsley University Professor Cass Sunstein (see “The Legal Olympian,” January-February 2015, page 43).…Morgan Brown ’06, M.P.A. ’18, has been appointed executive director of the Kennedy School’s Institute of Politics.…Professor of psychology Talia Konkle, a vision scientist and computational neuroscientist, has become faculty director of the interfaculty Mind Brain Behavior initiative, succeeding Starch professor of psychology Alfonso Caramazza.…Eaton professor of the science of government Daniel Ziblatt, who studies threats to democracy, is the new director of the Center for European Studies, succeeding Tisch professor of government Grzegorz Ekiert.

Scientists of Note

Harvard has conferred its George Ledlie Prize on professor of systems biology Michael Springer and Ackman professor of public economics Raj Chetty. The prize, awarded no more frequently than every two years, recognizes the member(s) of the community who has or have “by research, discovery, or otherwise, made the most valuable contribution to science, or in any way for the benefit of mankind.” Springer developed the coronavirus testing system used by Harvard and MIT. Chetty, who runs the Opportunity Insights laboratory, is widely known for work on economic mobility, including recent research on legacy admissions (see page 4).…The Simons Foundation has named professors of physics Daniel Jafferis, a string theorist and quantum scientist, and Norman Y. Yao, a condensed matter and quantum information scientist, Simons Investigators. Each receives $100,000 in annual research support for five years, plus funds to support departmental expenses.…Computational neuroscientist Kanaka Rajan has joined Harvard’s Kempner Institute as an institute investigator, with a dual appointment in the Medical School’s department of neurobiology. She uses tools from physics, mathematics, engineering, and data science to probe how neural circuits enable learning, memory, and decision-making. Rajan was formerly a tenured associate professor at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, in New York.

Newsmakers

President emerita Drew Gilpin Faust retired from teaching as of last June 30; her retirement vacated the Porter University Professorship, creating President Claudine Gay’s first opportunity to choose an appointee to Harvard’s most distinguished faculty chairs.…The Harvard-MIT Axim Collaborative, the nonprofit successor to the edX online learning partnership (see harvardmag.com/axim-debuts-23) has unveiled a partnership with the United Negro College Fund to develop HBCUv—a digital learning platform for historically black colleges and universities.…Cox professor of law Jody Freeman, director of the Law School’s environmental and energy law program, announced that she stepped down from the ConocoPhillips board of directors, concluding a decade of service, to focus on research on methane reduction, net-zero pledges, and planning for the energy transition. Her board service was long subject to criticism by fossil fuel divestment advocates.…In late August, Harry J. Elam Jr. ’78, president of Occidental College since 2020, announced that he had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and will step down at the end of the academic year to attend to his health and family, cutting short his five-year term.

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