Campus & Community

Hanna Gray to conclude service on Harvard Corporation

4 min read

Hanna Holborn Gray, Ph.D. ’57, president emerita and Harry Pratt Judson Distinguished Service Professor Emerita of History at the University of Chicago, plans to step down from the Harvard Corporation at the end of the 2004-05 academic year, following eight years as a member of Harvard’s executive governing board and six years previously as a member of the Board of Overseers.

“Hanna Gray has for decades played a powerfully influential part in advancing

Hanna Gray

American higher education,” said President Lawrence H. Summers. “She has been a strong and consistent voice for core academic values and high academic standards, while affirming the central importance of excellent liberal arts education within our leading universities. Harvard is fortunate and grateful to be among the institutions that have benefited greatly from her wisdom and counsel, and I hope we will continue to do so long after she concludes her distinguished tenure on the Corporation.”

Said Gray: “I very much appreciate the range and quality of postdoctoral education afforded by service on Harvard’s governing boards. And I am especially grateful to have served with such excellent colleagues, among them three exceptional presidents whose leadership has sustained and strengthened Harvard’s pre-eminence in the world of higher education.”

Gray joined the Corporation in 1997, and as a Fellow of Harvard College has brought her extensive experience as a scholar, teacher, and academic administrator to bear on a wide range of issues facing the University. Her service as an overseer from 1988 to 1994 bridged the presidencies of Derek Bok and Neil Rudenstine, and her service on the Corporation has spanned the Rudenstine and Summers administrations. Since 1997 she has been a member of both the Joint Committee on Appointments and the Advisory Committee on Honorary Degrees, chairing the latter committee until 2001.

Born in Heidelberg, Germany, Gray received her B.A. from Bryn Mawr in 1950 and studied as a Fulbright Scholar at Oxford before receiving her Ph.D. from Harvard in 1957. A historian with special interests in humanism, political thought, and politics in the Renaissance and the Reformation, she served on the faculties of Harvard and the University of Chicago before becoming dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and professor of history at Northwestern University in 1972. She went on to serve as provost and professor of history at Yale from 1974 to 1978, and as acting president from 1977 to 1978.

For the next 15 years, from 1978 to 1993, Gray served as president and professor of history at the University of Chicago, emerging as one of American universities’ most respected leaders. Presenting her with an honorary degree from Harvard in 1995, Rudenstine said in his citation: “Powerful in judgment, humane in values, profound in learning, she has lifted American higher education ever higher.”

After concluding her presidency, Gray became the Harry Pratt Judson Distinguished Service Professor of History at the University of Chicago, and was honored in 1996 with the Quantrell Award for excellence in undergraduate teaching.

Broadly engaged in the governance of educational and other nonprofit institutions, Gray chairs the board of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and also serves as a regent of the Smithsonian Institution and as a trustee of the Marlboro School of Music. She is also a former trustee of Bryn Mawr, and in 2003 she concluded her service as chair of the board of trustees of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Gray’s many honors include the Medal of Liberty (1986), the Presidential Medal of Freedom (1991), the Charles Frankel Prize of the National Endowment for the Humanities (1993), and the Jefferson Medal of the American Philosophical Society (1993). She has received more than sixty honorary degrees.

A joint committee of the University’s governing boards will work to identify a successor to Gray. Under the University’s charter, a new member of the Corporation is elected by the President and Fellows with the counsel and consent of the Board of Overseers. Advice may be directed in confidence to the Corporation Search Committee, Harvard University, Loeb House, 17 Quincy St., Cambridge, MA 02138, or to