President of Harvard University

President of Harvard University
Seal of the President of Harvard University.png
Lawrence Bacow

since July 1, 2018 (2018-07-01)
AppointerHarvard Corporation
Formation1640 (1640)
First holderHenry Dunster
WebsiteOffice of the President

The president of Harvard University is the chief administrator of Harvard University and the ex officio chairman of the Harvard Corporation.[1] Each is appointed by and is responsible to the other members of that body, who delegate to the president the day-to-day running of the university.

Harvard is a famously decentralized university, noted for the "every tub on its own bottom" independence of its various constituent faculties. They set their own academic standards and manage their own budgets. The president, however, plays an important part in university-wide planning and strategy. Each names a faculty's dean (and, since the foundation of the office in 1994, the university's provost), and grants tenure to recommended professors; however, he or she is expected to make such decisions after extensive consultation with faculty members.

Harvard presidents have traditionally influenced educational practices nationwide. Charles W. Eliot, for example, originated America's familiar system of a smorgasbord of elective courses available to each student;[2] James B. Conant worked to introduce standardized testing; Derek Bok and Neil L. Rudenstine argued for the continued importance of diversity in higher education.

Recently, however, the job has become increasingly administrative, especially as fund-raising campaigns have taken on central importance in large institutions such as Harvard. Some have criticized this trend to the extent it has prevented the president from focusing on substantive issues in higher education.[3]

Each president is professor in some department of the university and teaches from time to time.

Harvard's current president is Lawrence Bacow, formerly the president of Tufts University.[4]


At Harvard's founding it was headed by a "schoolmaster," Nathaniel Eaton. In 1640, when Henry Dunster was brought in, he adopted the title president. The origins of this title have been grounds for a certain amount of speculation.

Harvard was founded for the training of Puritan clergy, and even though its mission was soon broadened, nearly all presidents through the end of the 18th century were in holy orders.

All presidents from Leonard Hoar through Nathan Pusey were graduates of Harvard College. Of the presidents since Pusey, Bok earned his undergraduate degree at Stanford, Rudenstine at Princeton, and Summers and Bacow at MIT, but each earned a graduate degree at Harvard. Drew Gilpin Faust is the first president since the seventeenth century with no earned Harvard degree.

Presidents of Harvard

No.ImagePresidentsTerm of officeNotes
JHarvardOlympusCigar.jpgNathaniel Eaton1637–1639Referred to as "schoolmaster" of Harvard College
1Henry Dunster1640–1654
2HarvardPresidentCharlesChauncy.jpgCharles Chauncy1654–1672
3Leonard Hoar1672–1675
4Urian Oakes1675–1680 (acting); 1680–1681
5Harvard president John Rogers.pngJohn Rogers1682–1684
6Appletons' Mather Richard - Increase.jpgIncrease Mather1685–1686 (acting); 1686–1692 (rector); 1692–1701
Appletons' Willard Simon - Samuel.jpgSamuel Willard1701–1707 (acting)
7John Leverett.gifJohn Leverett1708–1724
8BenjaminWadsworth 1stChurch Boston.pngBenjamin Wadsworth1725–1737
9John Singleton Copley - Edward Holyoke (1689-1769) - H6 - Harvard Art Museums.jpgEdward Holyoke1737–1769
10Samuel Locke1770–1773
11Samuel Langdon1774–1780
12Joseph Willard1781–1804
Eliphalet Pearson.pngEliphalet Pearson1804–1806 (acting)
13Samuel Webber1806–1810
14JohnThorntonKikland.jpgJohn Thornton Kirkland1810–1828
15Josiah Quincy 1772-1864.jpgJosiah Quincy1829–1845
16Edward Everett, 1794-1865, three-quarter length portrait, standing, facing left (cropped closein 3x4).jpgEdward Everett1846–1849
17Jared Sparks.jpgJared Sparks1849–1853
18James Walker Harvard.jpgJames Walker1853–1860
19Cornelius Conway Felton (cropped).jpgCornelius Conway Felton1860–1862
20Thomas Hill b1818.jpgThomas Hill1862–1868
21Appletons' Eliot Charles William.jpgCharles William Eliot1869–1909
22Picture of Abbott Lawrence Lowell.jpgA. Lawrence Lowell1909–1933
23James Conant 1932.jpgJames B. Conant1933–1953
24Nathan Pusey Boston College 1963 (cropped).JPGNathan Pusey1953–1971
25Derek Bok1971–1991; 2006–2007 (acting)
26Neil Rudenstine1991–2001
27Lawrence Summers 2012.jpgLawrence Summers2001–2006
28Harvard President Drew Faust US Navy 110304-N-5549O-204.jpgDrew Gilpin Faust2007–2018First female President at Harvard[5]
29Lawrence Bacow2018–present[6]

John Winthrop served as acting president in 1769 and again in 1773; but both times he declined the offer of the full presidency on grounds of old age.

Other minor acting presidents have included William Brattle, Edward Wigglesworth (1780–1781), Henry Ware (1810, 1828–1829), Andrew Preston Peabody (1862, 1868–1869), and Henry Pickering Walcott. Henry Rosovsky, former Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, served as acting president for three months in 1987 when Bok traveled abroad. Provost Albert Carnesale served as acting president November 1994 – February 1995, during Rudenstine's leave of absence. Bok served as interim president July 1, 2006 – June 30, 2007, until the appointment of Faust.


  1. ^ Central Administration Archived November 23, 2011, at the Wayback Machine Governance of the University, from Office of the Provost
  2. ^ "Eliot, Charles W. (Brief biography)". Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th Edition, 2001.
  3. ^ Lee, Richard S. (March 10, 2001). "An Empty Chair at Harvard (Op-Ed)". The New York Times. Retrieved October 17, 2007.
  4. ^ Biography Archived October 11, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ "First Female Harvard President Discusses Priorities and Goals". February 12, 2007. Retrieved March 15, 2020.
  6. ^ Hartocollis, Anemona (February 11, 2018). "Harvard Chooses Lawrence Bacow as Its Next President". The New York Times. Retrieved February 13, 2018.

External links

Media files used on this page

James Conant 1932.jpg
1932 Press Photo Professor James Bryant Conant, Winner William Nichols Medal
Josiah Quincy 1772-1864.jpg
Image of Josiah Quincy (1772-1864), taken from a book authored by his son, Edmund Quincy
Cornelius Conway Felton (cropped).jpg
American academic Cornelius Conway Felton, presumably from a carte de visite.
Nathan Pusey Boston College 1963 (cropped).JPG
Photo of President John F. Kennedy and Harvard president Nathan Pusey at Boston College, where the President spoke and both received honorary degrees in 1963.
Eliphalet Pearson.png
A portrait of Eliphalet Pearson, first Principal of Phillips Academy (1778-1786) and Acting President of Harvard University (1804-1806).
Seal of the President of Harvard University.png
Author/Creator: Dont know, Licence: CC BY-SA 4.0
Seal of the President of Harvard University
Lawrence Summers 2012.jpg
Author/Creator: LHSummers, Licence: CC BY-SA 3.0
Lawrence H. Summers, August 2012
Jared Sparks.jpg
Photographic portrait of Jared Sparks, former president of w:Harvard University.
Thomas Hill b1818.jpg
Thomas Hill (1818-1891)
BenjaminWadsworth 1stChurch Boston.png
Portrait of Benjamin Wadsworth.
Appletons' Mather Richard - Increase.jpg
Portrait drawing of clergyman Increase Mather
Appletons' Willard Simon - Samuel.jpg
Portrait drawing of Massachusetts clergyman Samuel Willard (1640-1707).
Author/Creator: unknown, Licence: PD-US

This Olympus Cigar label was found in an old box of cigar labels that dated from the 1920s – most of the companies having gone out of business.

Subsequently I informed the personnel of Harvard College years ago of the existence of this label, and the fact that the artist had clearly misinterpreted his instructions to paint an image of the founder of Harvard College: John Harvard – in fact, mistakenly painting a portrait of the first schoolmaster of Harvard: Nathaniel Eaton; which it can easily be seen was far older than John Harvard would have been who died in 1638 at the age of 29. Nathaniel Eaton, on the other hand, lived to be at least 64 years old having died in 1674 (also notice the sitter's collar to be the same as that worn by Oliver Cromwell in 1657).

As the copyright has probably expired, fairuse is contentended here.

WB2 23:53, 5 November 2005 (UTC)

Picture of Abbott Lawrence Lowell.jpg
Picture of Abbott Lawrence Lowell
Harvard President Drew Faust US Navy 110304-N-5549O-204.jpg
BOSTON (March 4, 2011) Secretary of the Navy (SECNAV) the Honorable Ray Mabus, left, and Harvard President Drew Faust sign a Memorandum of Agreement re-establishing the Naval ROTC on the Harvard campus for the first time in nearly 40 years. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kevin S. O'Brien/Released)
John Leverett.gif
John Leverett (1616-1679), or John Leverett the Younger, his grandson and president of Harvard.
Harvard president John Rogers.png
Portrait of Harvard president John Rogers from The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, Volume VI, 1896, page 411
Appletons' Eliot Charles William.jpg
Portrait drawing of Charles W. Eliot, Harvard president.