Campus & Community

Dean appointed to Graduate School of Design

4 min read

Summers describes Alan A. Altshuler as ‘outstanding scholar’

Alan A. Altshuler (Staff photo Kris Snibbe/Harvard News Office)

President Lawrence H. Summers announced Wednesday (Feb. 2) the appointment of Alan A. Altshuler, Ruth and Frank Stanton Professor of Urban Policy and Planning in the Harvard Graduate School of Design and the Kennedy School of Government, to the position of dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Design (HGSD), effective immediately. Altshuler has been serving as acting dean of the Design School since July 2004.

Summers said in announcing the appointment, “Alan Altshuler is an outstanding scholar, a distinguished public servant, and an able administrator. I have known and admired Alan for many years and have been deeply impressed by his leadership, judgment, and diligence during his tenure as acting dean. I look forward to continuing to work with him in his new role as dean.”

Altshuler said, “I have been profoundly impressed throughout my 16 years as a faculty member, and most recently during my seven months as acting dean, by the extraordinary talent, commitment, and warm collegiality of the GSD faculty, students, and staff. This is a place of remarkable, widely distributed creativity. So the task of a dean must be primarily to facilitate both initiatives bubbling up from below and collegial deliberations about major institutional choices. In this spirit, I am thrilled by the prospect of serving this wonderful community as dean. And I am deeply grateful to President Summers for his confidence in offering me this opportunity.”

Altshuler succeeds Peter G. Rowe, Raymond Garbe Professor of Architecture and Urban Design, who stepped down as dean in June 2004 to return to teaching and research. Rowe served as dean for 12 years, leading a capital campaign and increasing the size of the faculty.

The search for Rowe’s successor began late in the fall of 2003. Summers was advised in the search by a faculty group of 10. Summers also sought the advice of leading designers and scholars as well as the faculty, students, staff, and alumni of the GSD.

Altshuler has been a member of the Faculties of Design and Government since 1988. A distinguished scholar, Altshuler has written extensively on urban and intergovernmental politics, land use planning and regulation, public investment decision-making, transportation, and the world automobile industry. He is the author, most recently, of “Mega-Projects: The Changing Politics of Urban Public Investment” (with David Luberoff), which was designated “best book of the year” in 2004 by the Urban Politics Section of the American Political Science Association. Among Altshuler’s other books are “The City Planning Process: a Political Analysis”; “The Urban Transportation System: Politics and Policy Innovation”; “Regulation for Revenue” (with Jose Gomez-Ibanez); and “The Future of the Automobile” (with Daniel Roos and others).

Altshuler teaches courses on urban politics and land use policy to students in the Kennedy and Design Schools; he has also co-taught studio courses at GSD, in which aspiring architects, landscape architects, and planners receive their professional training.

Altshuler has a long and distinguished record as a capable leader and administrator at Harvard and elsewhere. Before coming to Harvard, he served as dean of New York University’s Graduate School of Public Administration for five years. At Harvard, he founded and served as the first director of the A. Alfred Taubman Center for State and Local Government and of the Rappaport Institute for Greater Boston. In addition, he has been academic dean of the Kennedy School. Altshuler has also served on the University Physical Planning Committee, the Allston Master Planning Task Force, and currently as a member of the Allston Client Group.

He has also been a dedicated public servant. After serving as chair of the Massachusetts Governor’s Task Force on Transportation and then as director of the Boston Transportation Planning Review, Altshuler was appointed the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ first secretary of transportation by Governor Francis W. Sargent in 1971, serving until the end of Sargent’s administration in January 1975. He was later chair of the Federal Energy Administration’s Transportation Advisory Committee and of two National Research Council committees, on the costs and benefits of the National 55 Mile Per Hour Speed Limit and on Governance and Opportunity in Metropolitan America (both of which produced books with Altshuler as the lead author).

Altshuler attended Cornell as an undergraduate and earned his master’s degree and doctorate in political science from the University of Chicago. He taught at Swarthmore, Cornell, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.) as a junior faculty member before being appointed full professor of political science at M.I.T. in 1969. He taught at M.I.T. until 1983 – with time out, as noted above, for government service – chairing the political science department from 1977 to 1982.

He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Public Administration.

Altshuler is married to Julie (Maller) Altshuler. They have two children and five grandchildren.