Drew Gilpin Faust

American historian and board member, director at Goldman Sachs

Drew Gilpin Faust (born September 18, 1947) is an American historian and was the 28th President of Harvard University, the first woman to serve in that role. She was ranked by Forbes in 2014 as the 33rd most powerful woman in the world.

Harvard President Drew Faust (2011)


  • Technology has the potential to positively transform access to education, and to shape how teachers teach and students learn, but there is still much we don’t know about how that transformation will take shape... Distance education can never fully replace the types of interactions that occur when teachers and learners are together in one physical location. Place-based and residential education will always have an irreplaceable role. But even on our campus, learning in classrooms is being transformed by digital tools. For instance, many Harvard faculty are “flipping” their classrooms by having students watch their lectures online and using traditional lecture time for more interactive learning. That is increasingly the case not just at Harvard, but in classrooms across America.
    • Q&A: Harvard President Drew Gilpin Faust, Dallas Morning News (17 October 2014)
  • My PhD dissertation and first book were about the proslavery argument. You might say I wanted to understand inhumanity—how men and women throughout history have persuaded themselves to defend ideas, practices, societies, governments that we of a different era see as indefensible. I wanted to know how humans can become blind to evil. Perhaps if we could understand their processes of denial and rationalization we might gain insight into our own failures of vision, the shortcomings of our own time.
    History, in other words, can expand our awareness of ourselves. It releases us from the confines of our own individual lives; it offers us other ways of seeing that cast our assumptions into relief. It reminds us of choices people have made—or not made—and thus illuminates realms of possibility. It shows us that things have been otherwise and reminds us they can be different once again. By documenting contingency and agency, history undermines any acceptance of crippling inevitability. And contingency means opportunity. It means that we can change things and that what we do matters. To my mind this may be history’s most important lesson.
  • Tomorrow, we will continue to be called upon to build trust in our actions, our words, and our purposes, to do good in the world. Tomorrow, we will endeavor to be that reliable compass that steers toward truth, towards Veritas.
    We are always learning, not just how to understand the world, but what to do with our understanding... with your help Harvard can keep learning, keep being, keep doing. It can embrace both change and constancy. It can remain Harvard while still becoming Harvard. Smart, but also wise. Restless, as well as proud. Equal parts bold and thoughtful. At once both old and new. Committed to goodness as well as greatness...
    The tensions between constancy and change are a good thing, a healthy thing. Any institution that has been committed to shaping the future, and future leaders, for as long as Harvard has, and as long as Harvard will, must embrace and master both. This is our inheritance. It must also be our legacy.
    • Remarks by Drew Gilpin Faust at the Close of The Harvard Campaign, Harvard University History of the Presidency, (14 April 2018)
  • As you leave UM to take up your work as nurses, engineers, teachers, scholars, scientific researchers, writers, caregivers, remember that you have learned much more here than what was required to qualify for your degrees. Remember the broader responsibilities that the learning and education you have received entail and share that commitment with the world. Remember that facts and truth matter, and must undergird any just and enduring society. Remember the human connections and contrasts that created the context in which learning thrived. And remember the combination of respect and resilience that the natural environment has required of you and let those qualities serve as touchstones in all you do in life. Remember to be Canes even as you leave this place to serve and uplift a wider world. Congratulations and godspeed.
    • Remarks at University of Miami Commencement, Harvard University History of the Presidency, (9 May 2019)
  • The story of Virginia compels us to recognize how important it is that we open our eyes and actively resist the assumptions and traditions that would obscure our vision. To imagine we are or can be color-blind is to render ourselves history-blind—to ignore realities that have defined us for good and for ill. The Founders embraced both slavery and freedom. We have inherited the legacy, and the cost, of both... “The past will remain horrible,” James Baldwin wrote, “for exactly as long as we refuse to assess it honestly.” And it will poison the present as well.
    • Race, History, and Memories of a Virginia Girlhood, The Atlantic, (August 2019)
  • I am not the woman president of Harvard. I am the president of Harvard.
    • Quoted in Thoughts on gender equality, by Forbes India (23 Jul 2020)


  • On banning Harvard’s single-gender clubs..: Starting with the class of 2021, any student who belongs to one of these clubs cannot hold leadership positions in student groups or varsity sports nor receive university endorsement for fellowships. “When you have powerful organizations that line women up on the streets and decide whether they’re attractive enough to be admitted … that doesn’t seem to me an equitable treatment of women in the Harvard community,” Faust says drily. Plus, the clubs charge thousands of dollars for membership. These organizations, Faust notes in her careful, academic way, “detract from the general intermingling of students across lines of identity, origin, wealth, class, race, gender.” But some Harvard men, like their kindred-spirit Yalie Brett Kavanaugh, “will not be intimidated into withdrawing” and have spent $180,000 in the first half of this year lobbying Congress for a bill that would cut Harvard’s federal funding if sanctions continue. Faust doesn’t mince words: “It seems to me to invite an extraordinary intrusion of the federal government into what is the business of the university.”
    • Drew Gilpin Faust, the First Female Harvard President, Was Nicknamed ‘Chainsaw Drew’, by Amanda Fortini, New York Magazine, (18 October 2018)
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