Neil L. Rudenstine

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Neil Leon Rudenstine
President of Harvard University
In office
Preceded by Derek C. Bok
Succeeded by Lawrence Summers
Personal details
Born (1935-01-21) January 21, 1935 (age 87)
Danbury, Connecticut
Spouse(s) Angelica Zander
Children 3 children

Neil Leon Rudenstine (born January 21, 1935) is an American educator, literary scholar, and administrator. He served as president of Harvard University from 1991 to 2001.

Early life and education

Rudenstine was born in Danbury, Connecticut, the son of Mae (née Esperito) and Harry Rudenstine, a prison guard.[1] His father who worked as a prison guard was a Jew of Ukrainian origin, who immigrated from Kiev, while his mother was Catholic and the daughter of immigrants from Campobasso in Italy.[2]

He attended the Wooster School in Danbury on a scholarship and was selected to participate in Camp Rising Sun, the Louis August Jonas Foundation's international summer scholarship program. He is an Episcopalian.[3]

He studied the humanities at Princeton University (A.B. 1956) and participated in Army R.O.T.C. After serving in the U.S. Army as an artillery officer, he attended New College, Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar and earned an M.A. In 1964, he received a Ph.D. in English literature from Harvard for thesis titled Sir Philip Sidney: The Styles of Love. His dissertation, directed by Douglas Bush, was on the poetic development of Sir Philip Sidney.


Most of Rudenstine's career has been dedicated to educational administration. Rudenstine taught at Harvard from 1964 to 1968 as an instructor and then an assistant professor in the Department of English and American Literature and Language.

From 1968 to 1988, Rudenstine was a faculty member and senior administrator at Princeton University. A scholar of Renaissance literature, he was an associate professor and then a full professor of English. He also held a series of administrative posts at Princeton:

  • Dean of students (1968–72)
  • Dean of the college (1972–77)
  • Provost (1977–88)

After his time at Princeton University, he served as executive vice-president of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation from 1988 to 1991.

President of Harvard

He then went on to serve as President of Harvard from 1991 to 2001. At Harvard he gained a reputation as an effective fundraiser, overseeing a period of highly successful growth of Harvard's endowment.[4]

He was known as a very mild-mannered president, supporting the arts and humanities and generally avoiding internal controversy, usually taking a hands-off approach to leading the university. He is also known for his initially hostile response to the Harvard Living Wage Campaign of 1998–2001, an initiative that drew the active support of thousands of students, faculty, and alumni, including the late Senator Ted Kennedy. In November 1994, citing exhaustion, he took a three-month leave of absence, during which provost Albert Carnesale served as acting president.


Rudenstine currently serves as Chairman of the Advisory Board for ARTstor, as well as teaching a yearly freshman seminar in 20th-century poetry at Princeton University.


  • Pointing Our Thoughts: Reflections on Harvard and Higher Education, 1991–2001 (2001)
  • The House of Barnes: The Man, the Collection, the Controversy (2012)
  • Ideas of Order: A Close Reading of Shakespeare's Sonnets (2014)

Memberships and affiliations

Rudenstine is an honorary Fellow of New College, Oxford, and Emmanuel College, Cambridge University, as well as Provost Emeritus of Princeton University. In 1998, as President of Harvard, Rudenstine was awarded an honorary degree by the University of Oxford, in a ceremony in which the President of Yale University, Richard Levin, was also honored.[5]

Rudenstine is also a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a former director of the American Council on Education, and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the American Philosophical Society, and the Committee for Economic Development.[6]

Earlier, he was a member of various advisory groups, including the National Commission on Preservation and Access and the Council on Library Resources. Rudenstine has also served as a trustee of the College Entrance Examination Board and of the Wooster School in Danbury, Connecticut, of which he is a graduate. He is currently on the Board of the New York Public Library, the Goldman Sachs Foundation, the Barnes Foundation, as well as many others both in the United States and in Europe.

Personal life

Rudenstine is married to Angelica Zander, an art historian, and they have three children.[7]


  1. [1]
  2. [2]
  3. Schoffman, Stuart (7 November 2006). "Jerusalem at Harvard". JUF News. Retrieved 23 October 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Liz McMillen, "For the Harvard Presidency, an American Success Story", Chronicle of Higher Education, 3 April 1991, Accessed August 29, 2008.
  6. "List by Class & Section: All Active Members as of October 2007", American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Accessed August 29, 2008
  7. [3]
Academic offices
Preceded by
Derek C. Bok
President of Harvard University
Succeeded by
Lawrence Summers