Campus & Community

Dean of Undergrad Education appointed

3 min read
As new dean of Undergraduate Education, Benedict H. Gross will oversee a number of programs essential to the undergraduate learning experience. Staff photo by Stephanie Mitchell

Benedict H. Gross, professor of mathematics in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS), has been named the new dean of Undergraduate Education, effective Sept. 1. Gross assumes his post at an important time in undergraduate education at Harvard, as FAS Dean William C. Kirby begins a broad-based examination of the curriculum and academic policies.

“I am delighted that Dick Gross has agreed to serve as dean of Undergraduate Education,” Kirby said. “Dick’s deep knowledge of the University, his wide-ranging intellect and great energy, and his proven dedication to undergraduate education will serve the faculty and students well.”

As dean, Gross will oversee a number of programs essential to the undergraduate learning experience, including the academic concentrations (or majors), the Core Curriculum, the tutorial system, the Freshman Seminar Program, study abroad, undergraduate research, and issues related to pedagogical innovation and improvement.

Gross draws on extensive experience and a distinguished record of service to the faculty. Chair of the Mathematics Department from 1999 to 2002, Gross has also chaired the Quantitative Reasoning Subcommittee of the Core Curriculum Committee, playing a central role in the addition of quantitative reasoning to the Core in 1999. Gross has served on the Educational Policy Committee, the Committee on Study Out of Residence, and the Committee on Admissions and Financial Aid, reflecting the breadth of his concerns.

His roots at Harvard run deep. Gross received his A.B. from the College in 1971, graduating summa cum laude in mathematics. After traveling for a year in Asia and Africa on a Sheldon Fellowship, he studied for two years at Oxford University on a Marshall Scholarship. He returned to Harvard to receive his Ph.D. in 1978, under the supervision of John Tate.

Gross moved quickly from assistant professor of mathematics at Princeton University (1978-1982), to associate professor at Brown University (1982-1985), to tenured professor at Harvard in 1985. A year after returning to Harvard, Gross received a five-year MacArthur Fellowship. The following year, he received the American Mathematical Society’s Cole Prize in number theory, for his work with Don Zagier on the arithmetic of elliptic curves. He has also worked on the theory of group representations and modular forms, and has supervised 30 doctoral students. Gross was named a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1992, and received the George Vasmer Leverett chaired professorship at Harvard in 1998.

Gross is married to Jill Mesirov, who is associate director of the Center for Genome Research at the Whitehead Institute. They have two teenage sons, and live in Belmont.

About his new post, Gross said, “I am grateful to Bill Kirby for giving me this opportunity to serve as dean of Undergraduate Education, and I am looking forward to working with him and the faculty, in the coming review of our curriculum. Harvard has given me so many opportunities, as a student, a teacher, and a mathematician. This position gives me the chance to give something back, and to contribute to the fundamental educational mission of our University.”