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A Message from the President: Dean James E. Ryan

Dear Members of the Harvard Graduate School of Education Community, 

The University of Virginia (UVA) announced earlier today that James E. Ryan, dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, will become UVA’s next president as of October 1, 2018. An alumnus of UVA’s law school, Jim previously served as Matheson and Morgenthau Distinguished Professor of Law and Weber Research Professor of Civil Liberties and Human Rights and academic associate dean at UVA. Jim will return to Charlottesville as the next president of Thomas Jefferson’s university after positioning the Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE) to move boldly into its second century. 

An outstanding academic leader, teacher, and scholar with a commitment to improving and expanding education for all, Jim Ryan worked with colleagues to bring a transformational vision to the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Under his wise and steady leadership, the School has increased the size, impact, and diversity of its faculty. HGSE has also expanded its reach with practicing educators across the country through new online and on-campus professional education opportunities. Alongside a dedicated faculty and staff, he has successfully connected students and programming with partners across Harvard, including the launch of a new University-wide Ph.D. in education with the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, and the innovative Harvard Teacher Fellows program, which provides pathways into teaching for Harvard College students and alumni while also bringing passionate Harvard public servants to high-need urban areas throughout the country. 

As dean, Jim has made the development of the HGSE community a priority, strengthening intellectual life on campus with collaborative research colloquia; a conversation series intended to prepare students for careers working in diverse environments; live storytelling events that feature faculty, students, and staff; and a major renovation of Longfellow Hall. Through “Learn to Change the World,” the campaign for HGSE, Jim worked with colleagues to strengthen the School’s financial foundation—including raising the largest gift in the School’s history—helping to enable the success of the next generation of education scholars and practitioners. 

Jim is also one of the most powerful public speakers I know. He has written and spoken compellingly on the challenges facing educational leaders and policymakers, and about the power of education to change lives, and he has done so in a way that is warm and open, and deeply connected to both his background as a scholar focused on issues of educational opportunity and equality as well as his personal convictions. His 2016 HGSE commencement speech—viewed more than 10 million times online and captured in his New York Times bestselling book—is an excellent example of the ways his story and his leadership have inspired many.

Harvard will miss his thoughtful and compassionate leadership, and I will miss Jim’s voice, wisdom, and humor as a member of the Council of Deans and a leader here on campus. I congratulate the University of Virginia’s Board of Visitors and the entire UVA community on the selection of their next president. 

I will be in touch in the coming weeks with information about the search for the next dean of HGSE and, while I know much remains to be done this year, I look forward to numerous opportunities over the course of the academic year to celebrate Jim’s many contributions to the School and to the University, which you can also read more about in today’s Gazette piece. For now, I hope you will join me in wishing him well and thanking him for his service not only to Harvard, but to the countless teachers and students of all ages and backgrounds who will be forever bettered by his service to education. 

Drew Faust 

P.S. If you are interested in reading Dean Ryan’s letter to the HGSE community, you will find it here.