Dean Sarah Whiting.

Sarah Whiting, dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Design, will take a "partial step back" during treatment for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard file photo

Campus & Community

Graduate School of Design’s dean diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma

3 min read

Whiting plans to take ‘partial step back’ from leadership responsibilities while undergoing treatment

Sarah M. Whiting, dean and Josep Lluís Sert Professor of Architecture at the Graduate School of Design (GSD), has been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and beginning Thursday will be taking a “partial step back” from daily leadership responsibilities as she pursues treatment. Whiting made the announcement in a Monday morning email to the GSD community.

“Fortunately, Harvard and the Boston area are home to some of the finest health care providers in the world, and so I am in good hands,” Whiting wrote. “As difficult as it will be, especially at this critical juncture in the School’s history, I will need to follow the advice of my physician team, as well as of Harvard’s president and provost, and do my best to turn my energy toward my recovery.”

While Whiting undergoes medical care, longtime GSD Professors Rahul Mehrotra and Niall Kirkwood will take on day-to-day administrative oversight for School affairs, with Mehrotra as dean designate and Kirkwood continuing as associate dean for academic affairs.

Mehrotra will work with the School’s senior leadership at both the GSD and the University levels. He currently serves as professor of urban design and planning and director of the master of architecture in urban design degree program, and was recently appointed incoming chair of GSD’s Department of Urban Planning and Design. Kirkwood will continue to oversee faculty searches, promotions, reviews, benefits, and policies.

“What the last few weeks have shown again and again is that a dean’s success in leading a School forward depends so entirely on the strength of its community,” Whiting wrote. “Your collective willingness to jump into the fray, lend a hand, and help bring our School through the current moment — your generosity and your grit — have been endlessly inspiring to me personally, but also have ensured against all odds the uncompromising excellence and rigor that underpin the GSD’s legacy. I have complete and total confidence in our combined ability to navigate the School onward, and you should too.”

Whiting was named dean in April 2019 and formally took over on July 1, 2019. She had served since 2010 as dean of the Rice University School of Architecture, where she was the William Ward Watkin Professor of Architecture, and she also taught on the GSD faculty earlier in her career. She is co-founder and partner of WW Architecture, a firm she launched with her partner, Ron Witte, in 1999.