Term of office: 1991-2001
Neil L. Rudenstine (1935-) served as Harvard’s president from 1991-2001. Rudenstine, a scholar of Renaissance literature, received his Ph.D. from Harvard in 1964. After serving as a faculty member at Harvard for four years, he joined the faculty at Princeton, where he had earned his undergraduate degree.
At Princeton, Rudenstine held a number of posts in academic administration, including dean of students, dean of the college, and provost.
Rudenstine then served as executive vice president of the Mellon Foundation for four years before being chosen for the Harvard presidency in 1991.
At Harvard, as part of an overall effort to achieve greater coordination among the University’s schools and faculties, Rudenstine set in motion an intensive process of University-wide academic planning intended to identify some of Harvard’s main intellectual and programmatic priorities.
In 1999, he announced the launch of a major new venture in interdisciplinary learning, the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, created through the merger of Radcliffe College with Harvard.
During his tenure Rudenstine worked to sustain and build federal support for university-based research. Under his leadership, Harvard’s federally sponsored research grew to $320 million in 2000, up from $200 million in 1991.
Rudenstine also stressed the University’s commitment to excellence in undergraduate education, the importance of keeping Harvard’s doors open to students from across the economic spectrum, the task of adapting the research university to an era of rapid information growth, and the challenge of living together in a diverse community committed to freedom of expression.
Rudenstine led Harvard’s first University-wide funding campaign in modern times and what was then the largest higher education campaign in history. The efforts surpassed the goal of $2.1 billion to raise more than $2.6 billion from about 175,000 alumni and friends of Harvard.
That success allowed the University to take meaningful steps toward its goals, such as increasing both undergraduate and graduate student financial aid, embarking on new construction projects to provide cutting-edge facilities for study and research, and endowing new chairs and professorships to ensure that Harvard would continue to attract top faculty.
Since stepping down from the presidency, Rudenstine has been involved in a digital arts venture, ArtSTOR, and taught courses at Princeton.
Rudenstine is married to art historian Angelica Zander Rudenstine.
The Neil L. and Angelica Zander Rudenstine Gallery at the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research is the only exhibition space at Harvard devoted to works by and about people of African descent.