Campus & Community

Spencer Foundation head new GSE dean

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Ellen Condliffe Lagemann named GSE dean, assumes duties in July

Ellen Condliffe Lagemann, Judith Singer and John
Newly appointed Dean of the Graduate School of Education Ellen Condliffe Lagemann (right) talks with Judith Singer and John Willett, who served jointly as acting dean since Jerome T. Murphy’s departure. (Staff photo by Stephanie Mitchell)

Following a nationwide search that began last fall, President Lawrence H. Summers announced Tuesday, April 9, that he has appointed Ellen Condliffe Lagemann, leading historian of education and president of the Chicago-based Spencer Foundation, as the next dean of the Graduate School of Education. Lagemann succeeds Jerome T. Murphy, who served as dean from 1992 through June 2001, and Judith Singer and John Willett, who have served jointly as acting dean since Murphy’s departure. Lagemann will assume her duties in July.

A nationally known historian and expert on education research, Lagemann has been a professor at New York University (NYU) since 1994, serving from 1994 to 2000 as chair of the Department of the Humanities and the Social Sciences, and director of the Center for the Study of American Culture and Education in the School of Education. In April 2000, Lagemann was appointed president of the Spencer Foundation, a Chicago-based philanthropy that supports research in education, while retaining her faculty appointment at NYU. Before joining the faculty at NYU, Lagemann taught for 16 years at Teachers College, Columbia University, and was also a member of the Department of History at Columbia.

“Ellen Lagemann is an outstanding historian and scholar of education, and a leader in the effort to convert high-quality academic research into usable tools to improve teaching and learning in the nation’s public schools,” Summers said in announcing the appointment. “Education is central to everything we do at Harvard, and our School of Education has important contributions to make within the University and to society at large.

“Lagemann brings to the deanship the knowledge base, the commitment, and the leadership qualities to build on the School’s considerable strengths in research and training and place it at the center of thinking about education,” Summers added. “I am pleased to welcome Ellen Lagemann to the Graduate School of Education and to the larger Harvard community, and to say how fortunate we are that she is willing to take on this role at this crucial moment for the School and for the field.

“I also want to take this opportunity to acknowledge the outstanding contribution that Judy Singer and John Willett have made during their service this year in the acting deanship,” Summers continued. “They have preserved momentum in key areas and laid the groundwork for further progress under the new dean.”

“We at the Spencer Foundation are sorry to lose Ellen Lagemann but are pleased that Harvard has recognized her many abilities and values her commitment to excellence in both educational research and practice,” said Board Chair Mary P. McPherson. “Ellen’s energy and sense of purpose will serve the Graduate School of Education and the broad field of education well.”

In accepting the appointment, Lagemann said, “I am deeply honored that Harvard has chosen me for this exciting and very challenging role. President Summers has made clear that he wants the Graduate School of Education to focus its mission more sharply and support rigorous research directed at solving the most pressing problems in education. He also wants the School to attract highly talented individuals, to train them effectively, and to work to improve the professional regard in which teaching and leadership in education are held. I share these goals, and with the ongoing support of the president, the faculty, and the larger School community, I am confident that we can meet them.”

Lagemann is the author of five books, including “An Elusive Science: The Troubling History of Education Research,” published in 2000 by the University of Chicago Press. She has also edited or co-edited four additional books, and published numerous articles, reviews, and book chapters. Lagemann is a member of the National Academy of Education, where she served as president from 1998-2002. She has also served as president of the History of Education Society and on the editorial board of the History of Education Quarterly, and is a member of many other professional associations.

In 2000-01, Lagemann served on the Committee on the Scientific Principles of Education Research of the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences. She is a trustee of the Russell Sage and Markle Foundations and former vice chair of the board of the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral and Social Sciences in Stanford, Calif. In 2000-01, she served on the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study Ad Hoc Committee, charged with assisting founding Dean Drew Gilpin Faust in charting the mission of the new Institute.

Lagemann received her undergraduate degree from Smith College, before teaching high school social studies in Roslyn, New York. She received her M.A. in social studies from Teachers College, and her Ph.D. in history and education from Columbia University.