February 11, 2007

Delighted at Drew's destiny

I'm one of the many people who has crossed paths with Drew Gilpin Faust over the years, and while Harvard is only one university, I'm very happy that Faust got picked as president. I never had a class with her when I was in grad school at Penn, but she was well-known for being serious and supportive, I found her the same, and there is nothing in the last 15 years to contradict the reputation she had among grad students.

She will do just fine as Harvard's president.

There is one apocryphal story I have of her role in saving House of Our Own, an independent bookstore on the 3900 block of Spruce Street in Philadelphia. For many years, it's operated out of the same brownstone building owned by Penn.  While I was a grad student (and several times since), Penn threatened to end its lease for various alleged purposes, including supposed redevelopment or repurposing of the building, though grad students generally supposed that the university thought that House of Our Own competed with the campus bookstore (which it did, or would have if the campus bookstore ever had a significant intellectual focus).

In any case, during one of those occasional crises, Faust and her husband Charles Rosenberg were offered jobs at Harvard. They either asked to talk to or were invited to talk to Penn's then-president, Sheldon Hackney (a Southern historian, like Faust). Hackney asked why they would ever consider Harvard.

"Harvard wouldn't shut down a small bookstore operating in Harvard Square!" is the comment I've heard attributed to Drew Faust. She and Rosenberg stayed at Penn a few more years, and the bookstore stayed open, though I don't know if there's a connection.

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Posted in Academic freedom on February 11, 2007 4:43 PM |