Campus & Community

Sally Zeckhauser, vice president for administration since 1988, to retire in June

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Sally Zeckhauser, who launched her Harvard career in 1973 and has served for more than two decades as the University’s vice president for administration, today (March 9) announced her plans to retire at the end of the 2008-09 academic year.

“I’m grateful to all my colleagues over the years for making my Harvard experience so stimulating and rewarding,” Zeckhauser said. “I have been fortunate to work with four remarkable Harvard presidents, with dozens of colleagues in Mass Hall, and with a wonderful group of dedicated, innovative people across the Central Administration and the Schools. The University’s ability to adapt to the times, anticipate significant trends, and approach problems with both reasoned thoughtfulness and agility has made Harvard a global leader among universities. I take great pride in having been part of its work for so long, and I have every confidence that President Faust will guide Harvard through our current challenges to a future of continued excellence and strength.”

“Sally Zeckhauser has been one of Harvard’s most dedicated and effective administrative leaders for more than 35 years,” said President Drew Faust. “Colleagues across the University have come to know and value her quiet leadership and professionalism, her thoughtful judgment, and her steadfast devotion to the best interests of Harvard as a whole. She has brought to her wide-ranging responsibilities a keen sense of Harvard’s mission and distinctive culture, and a feel for not just the institutional but the human dimensions of any given situation or challenge. For me, as for so many others, she has been not only a valued colleague but a good friend, and I know she will remain very much a part of the Harvard family even after she steps down at the end of June. All of us owe her our thanks for having managed so broad and important a portfolio of activities with such skill, commitment, and care.”

As vice president for administration, for two decades Zeckhauser has overseen a set of administrative units that provide a wide array of services to the University. They range from physical planning, real estate management and acquisition, and construction coordination to food services and the Faculty Club, from facilities and utilities to transportation and environmental safety. She also oversees such affiliated institutions as the Harvard University Press and the Arnold Arboretum.

“Sally Zeckhauser has been guiding Harvard in so many important areas, during the course of four Harvard presidencies, that it is more than a simple challenge to pay tribute to her many significant contributions,” said Neil L. Rudenstine, Harvard’s president from 1991 to 2001. “During my own days as president, she was critical to the renovation of the freshman residences in Harvard Yard, and to the creation or revitalization of such facilities as the Barker Center, Widener Library, and Memorial Hall. Her role as leader, administrator, partner, and University citizen has been invaluable, and Harvard’s debt to her is very great indeed.”

“Sally Zeckhauser has been an extraordinarily valuable citizen of the University for the past several decades, making innumerable contributions that have touched our lives,’’ said Derek Bok, Harvard’s president from 1971 to 1991 (and July 2006 through June 2007). “All those who appreciate the attractiveness of the physical environment at Harvard, or enjoy the services of the Faculty Club, or have a stake in the University’s future development in Allston owe a debt to this exceptionally dedicated and effective member of our community. In countless ways, large and small, she has made this institution a better place and helped ensure its future development.”

Looking back, Zeckhauser takes particular satisfaction in her work on the ambitious renovation of Harvard Yard’s gates, fences, landscaping, and residence halls in the 1990s — a project recognized with numerous awards for historic preservation. With the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, she oversaw the renovation of Memorial Hall, restoring its treasured stained-glass windows and allowing its tower to rise again. More recently, she founded Harvard’s Bridge to Learning and Literacy Program, which offers training to hundreds of Harvard service and clerical/technical workers interested in improving their skills and, in some cases, gaining their citizenship. And, throughout her vice presidency, she has played a leading role in efforts to envision and provide for the University’s physical future, including working with four presidents over two decades developing Harvard’s long-term commitment to Allston.

“Most of all, I’m proud of having assembled a creative, efficient, and highly capable team of colleagues over the years,” she said. “Together we have brought sound business practices to the administrative side of the University in support of its core missions of teaching and research. Partnering with this team has made working here a wonderful and rewarding experience.”

Before moving to Massachusetts Hall, Zeckhauser served from 1979 to 1988 as the first president of Harvard Real Estate Inc., responsible for the University’s nonacademic real estate holdings. From 1973 to 1978, she directed a research group that provided financial analysis and decision-making support to Harvard’s senior leadership. A 1964 graduate of Bryn Mawr College, she received a master of public administration degree from the Kennedy School of Government in 1973.

She has been a trustee of Bryn Mawr College since 1995 and chair of its board since 2000. She also serves as vice chair of the Lalor Foundation, which funds research fellowships in reproductive science and supports social initiatives in reproductive planning.

Zeckhauser is married to Richard Zeckhauser, the Frank Plumpton Ramsey Professor of Political Economy at the Kennedy School. They live in Cambridge and have two grown children, Bryn and Ben.

“I look forward to working with Drew, Ed Forst, and others these next few months to assure a smooth transition,” Zeckhauser said. “Change is rarely easy, but Harvard has always been the better for it.”