Harvard provost's resignation letter

The Globe reports Harvard provost Steven Hyman is resigning to go back to research. A copy of his letter to Harvard professors and staff follows:

Dear Friends and Colleagues:

I am writing with the news that I plan to step down as University Provost on June 30, 2011. I look forward to reclaiming the teaching and research roles that I had to forgo as Provost. Nonetheless, I will miss working on the wide range of University issues that come before me every day, and above all I will miss working with some of the most wonderful scholars and administrative leaders in academia.

I am grateful to have had the opportunity to serve as Harvard’s Provost — undoubtedly one of the greatest privileges in all of American higher education. From this remarkable perch, I have been as much a learner as an actor. I have been able to work with Harvard’s talented deans, faculty, and other leaders, and to nurture their high aspirations for the great academic departments, professional Schools, museums, and libraries in their charge.

As Provost, I have aimed, above all, to knit together this highly decentralized University in ways that make it greater than the sum of its glorious parts. The world well recognizes Harvard’s overall academic strength, but less well understood is the collaborative spirit of our faculty members and students and their desire to pursue important intellectual and practical problems wherever they lead — often across the boundaries of disciplines or of individual Schools. While some barriers remain, I am profoundly pleased that I could encourage the innovative spirit of such collaborative ventures as the Department of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology (SCRB), Harvard’s first cross-School department; the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, a collaborative venture of Harvard Medical School, the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and the Faculty of Arts and Sciences; the Mahindra Humanities Center, as it evolved to achieve University-wide status; and many other forward-thinking efforts of our faculty. The University now boasts roughly 30 interfaculty initiatives, not including many smaller and less formal efforts, and several of our most successful collaborations now extend robustly to include neighboring universities and our superb affiliated hospitals.

While I have put much effort into strengthening Harvard’s programs in the natural sciences and engineering, I have been fortunate in my role to expand the reach and impact of our remarkable museums, libraries, and cultural institutions. I feel privileged to have recruited to Harvard several outstanding leaders and to have worked closely with them to draw their institutions closer to our core educational and research mission. It has been a source of great satisfaction to support efforts such as the ongoing renovation of the Fogg Museum — not only as a long overdue physical renewal, but also as an innovative platform for object-based pedagogy — and to experience the excitement of our students and broader community through the groundbreaking work of such organizations as the American Repertory Theater. I am also excited to have worked for nearly two years on efforts to reform our magnificent library system, and look forward in the coming months to establishing structures that should ensure that the new Harvard Library is the greatest university library of the 21st century.

I am now entering the tenth year of what I originally had intended as a five-year commitment. Added to nearly six years of government service as Director of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) prior to my return to Harvard in 2001, this has been a long period in leadership and administrative roles. Despite much unfinished business, I believe that this is a good time for transition. As a result of significant reforms — some completed, some still ongoing — Harvard has risen to meet a number of significant challenges over the past decade, and has emerged with exceptional strength. This wonderful institution is also blessed with a very strong group of leaders, in Central Administration, in the Schools, and in our allied institutions.

I look forward to a sabbatical beginning on July 1 at the Broad Institute. In addition to reconnecting with my academic and research roots, I also plan to propose and develop an undergraduate General Education course on neuroscience, ethics, and policy.

I hope to have the opportunity in my remaining seven months as Provost to thank all of the faculty members with whom I have worked closely, the undergraduates who have forgiven the sometimes slow pace with which I return their papers, and, above all, my dedicated colleagues in the Provost’s office, with whom I have had the good fortune to serve.

Steve Hyman