President Faust's 2011 year-end message

Dear Members of the Harvard Community,

Spring, at least the part that doesn’t require an umbrella, was stubbornly slow to arrive this year in Cambridge—but it showed up just in time for a resplendent Commencement, and for the best-attended alumni reunions in memory.  Now that our festive rites of passage have launched some 7,200 graduates on new adventures, I find myself reflecting on an academic year of significant passages, as well as emerging new ventures, for Harvard as a whole.

We say farewell to our provost, Steve Hyman, who has served the University with exceptional distinction and devotion this past decade, and we welcome his successor, Alan Garber, who will take up his duties in the fall.  We announced a set of historic changes to the composition and practices of the Harvard Corporation, including the appointment of three new members who will start in July.  We signed a groundbreaking agreement with the Navy to bring the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps back to campus for the first time in four decades.  We have guided the initial cohort of students through the first year of the University’s newest degree program, an innovative multidisciplinary program in educational leadership.  We are carrying forward a major reorganization of the Harvard Library, resetting one of Harvard’s jewels for a new era.  We are progressing through a transformation of our art museums; at the same time, we are nearing completion of a new cornerstone building for the Law School campus.  And we mourned the loss of Professor Peter Gomes, who for more than 40 years did so much to enrich Harvard’s spiritual life, and whose memory will long continue to remind us of the humane ideals that knit us together.

If it was an academic year of notable passages, it also was one of values affirmed, aspirations advanced, and opportunities envisioned.  We have sustained our strong commitment to generous financial aid, intended to bring the very best students to Harvard, amid still-challenging economic circumstances.  We have continued to expand Harvard’s international reach, which is evident in the boundless globe-trotting of thousands of our students and faculty, not to mention the stamps from seven countries that are fresh on my own passport since a year ago.  We have launched the Harvard Innovation Lab, intended to catalyze a range of entrepreneurial opportunities for students, faculty, and members of the broader community. We have vigorously pursued initiatives in science and engineering, and in interdisciplinary domains such as global health and energy and the environment, while celebrating the dedication of the Mahindra Humanities Center and fully embracing the arts inside the classroom as well as out.  And we have pushed ahead with the first stage of a massive undertaking to renew our undergraduate Houses, with the reorientation of our long-term planning for Harvard’s future in Allston, and with the consideration of emerging priorities for our coming University campaign.

This October we will celebrate the 375th anniversary of Harvard’s founding as the first college in a new world. Helping to imagine the world anew remains at the heart of what we do. For now, I hope the accompanying images will give you a more vivid sense of the lively spirit, intellectual passion, and significant progress of this past academic year.

With warmest wishes and many thanks,

- Drew Faust