Campus & Community

Benedict H. Gross named dean of Harvard College:

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Gross has been leading first review of undergraduate education in nearly 30 years

Benedict H.
Benedict H. Gross is newly appointed dean of Harvard College. (Staff photo by Kris Snibbe)

William C. Kirby, dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS), has appointed Benedict H. Gross, dean for Undergraduate Education at Harvard, as dean of Harvard College. Gross will head the consolidated offices of the dean of Harvard College and the dean for Undergraduate Education, effective July 1.

In making the recommendation, Kirby said, “Dick Gross has a deep concern for all aspects of undergraduate education and college life. First as professor and now as dean, he has earned the friendship of students, the respect of staff, and the admiration of his faculty colleagues. He has emerged as a thoughtful and astute advocate for undergraduate education at Harvard.

“As the person who is leading the first review of undergraduate education in nearly 30 years, Dick Gross will oversee and support the academic and extracurricular life of Harvard College students. His appointment last summer as dean for Undergraduate Education was warmly welcomed by colleagues and students. We are fortunate indeed to have such an outstanding leader for Harvard College,” Kirby said.

Kirby expressed gratitude to Harry R. Lewis, who will conclude his service as dean of Harvard College on June 30. “I am very grateful for Harry’s years of hard work dedicated to making the undergraduate experience at Harvard better than anywhere else in the country. I know that Dean Gross and I will continue to seek his advice on issues that affect the College.”

Gross, the George Vasmer Leverett Professor of Mathematics, received his A.B. and Ph.D. degrees from Harvard, and taught at Princeton and Brown before joining the Harvard faculty in 1985. He has served as chair of the Department of Mathematics, and as a member of the Standing Committee on the Core Curriculum, the Educational Policy Committee, and the Committee on Admissions and Financial Aid. He also served as a member of the faculty committee that conducted the last major review of the Core Curriculum in 1997. Among his many awards and honors are the Cole Prize from the American Mathematical Society, and a MacArthur Fellowship (1986-91).

As an undergraduate at Harvard, Gross concentrated in mathematics. He also played viola for the Harvard-Radcliffe Orchestra and in productions of the Gilbert and Sullivan players. He lived first in Adams House and then in Currier House, joining the first group of men to move to the Radcliffe Quadrangle in 1970. He was a recipient of a Sheldon fellowship after graduating, which he used to study music in Africa and Asia, and a Marshall Scholarship, which he took at Oxford University. Gross continues to perform viola with a string quartet regularly, and is an avid tennis player and skier.

This appointment follows Kirby’s recent announcement that he plans to merge the offices of the Dean for Undergraduate Education and the Dean of Harvard College as the FAS begins its major review of the College experience. “Not everything will happen immediately. But I have felt, very strongly, that we should not embark on a comprehensive review without first putting in place the structure most likely to foster a successful outcome for this extraordinarily important undertaking,” Kirby said.

A committee made up of the senior staff of the two offices is defining the immediate and practical issues of consolidation. Nancy L. Maull, executive dean of the FAS, is leading the committee and will report its findings to Gross and Kirby. In soliciting opinions on how the combined office can best serve Harvard’s students, Gross and Kirby will meet with masters of the undergraduate Houses, student leaders of the Undergraduate Council, and other interested members of the Harvard community.