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Vice President Sally Zeckhauser to Retire

3.9.09

Sally Zeckhauser

Sally Zeckhauser

Photograph by Jon Chase/Harvard News Office

Sally Zeckhauser, Harvard's vice president for administration (VPA) since 1988, will retire at the end of the academic year, effective June 30, the University has announced. She informed her staff earlier today. No details about succession were included in the news release.

In a statement accompanying the news, President Drew Faust said, "Sally Zeckhauser has been one of Harvard's most dedicated and effective administrative leaders for more than 35 years.…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." Former President Neil L. Rudenstine said Zeckhauser's service during his administration "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." 

Zeckhauser's presence in Massachusetts Hall provided management continuity during the tenure of five Harvard presidents and a large and changing cast of other senior executives and deans; she is today one of seven vice presidents who, along with the recently appointed executive vice president and the provost, make up Faust's nonacademic leadership team.

In her message to staff colleagues, Zeckhauser wrote, "I realize that I am leaving Harvard at a time of significant challenge, and my departure will add another element of change. But it is important to remember that change has always been a cornerstone of Harvard's success and a touchstone of VPA activities.…Harvard would not be where it is today if we were still operating with a 1660s model--or a 1920s model--or even a 1990s model. Change is rarely easy, but Harvard is better for it."

Zeckhauser's responsibilities span Harvard's principal staff operations: University Operations Services (engineering and utilities, environmental health and safety, buildings and grounds operations and maintenance, transportation); dining services; real estate (owned and leased apartments, affiliate housing, and so on); physical planning and development; the Faculty Club; and management oversight of several allied institutions, including the Arnold Arboretum, Harvard University Press, and Harvard Magazine (whose publisher reports to the vice president for administration for financial purposes).

Under her auspices, an annual "Harvard Heroes" celebration held each June in Sanders Theatre has recognized the performance of outstanding administrative personnel from throughout the University; before colleagues and, in many cases, family members, employees have been recognized for everything from coping with blizzards to improving food service to automating financial systems—and have been saluted with a degree-like certificates presented by the president. These staff recognition events have taken on special importance in the University context, given the status accorded to faculty members and students within the community. Harvard Heroes (which will be suspended this June, in light of budgetary constraints) and professional-development retreats for VPA middle managers (featuring experts from Harvard Business School, among others) have become rallying points for staff morale, and have made Zeckhauser well known across the University for leading efforts to enhance employees' skills and opportunities. She also led the creation of the Bridge to Learning and Literacy Program, which offers skills, language, and other training to hundreds of service and clerical/technical workers, and has helped many attain citizenship.

Before assuming her current responsibilities, according to the news release, 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 

Alongside her extensive operating and management responsibilities, Zeckhauser played a leading role during the administrations of Presidents Derek Bok, Rudenstine, and Lawrence H. Summers in assembling land for future campus development in Allston, and in early planning for those properties. (Earlier in this decade, as the Allston program gained critical mass and moved toward initial construction--now at least partly in abeyance, in light of current financial pressures--those activities were collected in the Allston Development Group, a separate unit reporting directly to the president.)

Zeckhauser's husband, Richard Zeckhauser, is Ramsey professor of political economy at the Harvard Kennedy School (see here for recent coverage of his diverse work from Harvard Magazine).