Year-End Message from President Faust

Cambridge, Mass.

On the Web: Harvard University—The Year in Pictures, 2011-2012

Dear Members of the Harvard Community:

Spirits and surroundings were in harmony as we gathered under blue skies for Commencement, marking the close of Harvard’s 375th anniversary with poetry and song.  It was a fitting end to a celebration that began in October with a boisterous, albeit rain-soaked, birthday party in Tercentenary Theatre, a celebration improved by the announcement a week earlier that seven of the year’s thirteen Nobel laureates were Harvard alumni.  Now, with milestones passed and revelry concluded, I thought I would share some reflections on the events of the past academic year and on the progress we continue to make together.

Harvard endures because Harvard changes.  If it was an academic year of celebrating the past, it also was one of looking to the future and launching new initiatives, new partnerships, and new spaces that will strengthen the University for generations to come.  We introduced the Harvard Initiative for Learning and Teaching to develop innovative approaches to teaching and to share more broadly the best in established and emerging methods with faculty across our Schools.  We announced edX, a partnership with MIT that will enable us to embrace the promise of online learning for our students while sharing our knowledge more widely with the world.  And we opened the Harvard Innovation Lab, a hub where student inventors and entrepreneurs from across the University can work closely with faculty and with members of the broader innovation community to turn their ideas into products and services.

At the same time, we reaffirmed commitments that will stand us in good stead as we move deeper into the 21st century.  We are progressing with plans to transform the Harvard Library, ensuring the preeminence of one of the University’s most cherished resources.  We have begun renovating Old Quincy, the test project for our ambitious renewal of undergraduate Houses.  We continue to adapt our graduate and professional programs, as well as the spaces they inhabit, to meet the needs of changing times.  The Business School introduced a new M.B.A. curriculum that includes an immersive international experience for all first-year students.  The Graduate School of Education, in close collaboration with the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, developed a new interdisciplinary Ph.D. program in education that will bring together faculty from across the University to address urgent issues related to education.  And the Law School completed the construction of the Wasserstein Hall, Caspersen Student Center, Clinical Wing, a new home that provides ample space for students and faculty to gather and collaborate.

At heart, of course, Harvard is about its people.  This year, we welcomed Provost Alan Garber and announced the appointments of three new campus leaders: Lizabeth Cohen became Dean of the Radcliffe Institute; David Hempton will succeed William Graham as Dean of the Divinity School, and Jonathan Walton will serve as Pusey Minister in the Memorial Church and Plummer Professor of Christian Morals.  Paul Finnegan will join the Corporation in July, his appointment the latest step in implementing changes intended to enlarge the Corporation and enhance Harvard’s governance structure.  I look forward to working closely with each of them as we continue to define our goals for our upcoming capital campaign, an opportunity to articulate the University’s aspirations at a transformative time for all of higher education.

“The books stand open and the gates unbarred.”  The final line of Seamus Heaney’s Villanelle for an Anniversary, delivered once again by the poet during our Morning Exercises, is a resonant reminder of our highest purposes.  Through the examples I have highlighted and the many more achievements that distinguished the past academic year, we have perpetuated knowledge to posterity, expanded the circle of inclusion, and imagined a world improved by our individual and collective efforts.  Looking now toward the culmination of Harvard’s fourth century, we begin again, guided by our history and inspired by one another.

With warmest wishes for an enjoyable summer,

Drew Faust