Drew Faust: If you can convince people that Harvard deserves more money, imagine what you could do for our industry writ large.

Historians in the News

Dear Dr. Faust:

You probably don't remember me, but I was in your "History of the American South" class at Penn. I think it was 1988, spring semester. I sat in the fourth row, toward the left, and wore a Red Sox cap. You gave an especially tough midterm, as I recall.

Anyhow, that's not why I'm writing. I am writing, first, to say congratulations on your appointment as the new president of Harvard University. Boy, you came out of nowhere, at least to people paying limited attention to such matters. Most figured a scientist would ascend to the top spot, not a historian.

What's more, you broke the ultimate barrier and paved the way for future generations who might dream of occupying Massachusetts Hall. Yes, who would have believed that Harvard would choose a nonalum as president?

Oh, it's also pretty cool that you're the first woman to lead the university.

The primary purpose of my letter, however, is to offer advice (as if you need it from me). You will probably spend the next few months thinking about your new duties and challenges, and I bet people will line up to tell you how to do your job.

I wonder, though, how much thought you have given to leading the largest fund-raising campaign in the history of American higher education. Sources, reliable or otherwise, suggest that Harvard is planning a campaign in the neighborhood of $5-billion. As someone who has frequently pondered what it must be like to undertake such responsibilities, I figured I would share what I can....

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