By Alvin Powell and Debra Bradley Ruder
Two scholars known for their warmth, familiarity with undergraduates, and wide-ranging interests that include religious pluralism, psychology and religion, particle theory, and horses, have been chosen to lead two River Houses.
Diana Eck and Dorothy Austin have been named Master and Co-Master of Lowell House, and Howard and Ann Georgi have been appointed Master and Co-Master of Leverett House.
Dean of Harvard College Harry R. Lewis announced the selections last week. The appointments, made officially by President Neil L. Rudenstine in consultation with Lewis and Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Jeremy R. Knowles, are pending approval by the Governing Boards. The new Masters are to begin officially in the fall.
Eck is professor of comparative religion and Indian studies at Harvard, and Dorothy Austin is an Episcopal minister and associate professor of psychology and religion at Drew University in New Jersey. They will succeed William and Mary Lee Bossert, who will retire as Masters after 23 years.
Howard Georgi is Mallinckrodt Professor of Physics, and Ann Georgi is a researcher in cell biology at the Medical School. They will assume the Masterships held by John and Judith Dowling for the past 17 years.
A House Master serves as the administrative head of the House and is responsible for the community that the House creates. To fill a vacancy, the Dean of the College appoints an advisory committee, meets with members of the affected House, and invites others to make suggestions.
Eck and Austin
Lowell House's new Masters look forward to joining the House community. They also realize the challenges the job presents, and they plan to take full advantage of the transitional months to observe the Bosserts in action. They intend to preserve Lowell House traditions and, perhaps, add a few of their own.
"This is a new chapter in our lives," Eck said. "We're not sure how it will be written, but we're eager to get started."
Dean Lewis said the pair's scholarly achievements blend with their warm personalities to make them excellent choices for House Master and Co-Master. "They will be wonderful stewards of the legendary Lowell House community.
"Professor Eck is a very popular teacher at Harvard, and her name was proposed with enthusiasm by a number of students," Lewis said. "She is a profound and accomplished scholar, and the Pluralism Project that she directs -- a research effort exploring religious diversity in America -- has gained national attention."
A member of the Harvard faculty since 1976, Eck has a B.A. from Smith College (1967) and a Ph.D. in the comparative study of religion from Harvard (1976).
Austin, who received a Th.D. degree in psychology and religion from Harvard in 1981, will bring extensive experience in psychology, counseling, and theology to her new role. She plans to spend several days a week in New Jersey but expects to balance her teaching and House responsibilities.
Eck and Austin said they wanted to be a part of an academic community that reaches beyond the bounds of Harvard's classrooms and which reflects the diversity of the University and the world around it.
The two will add diversity of their own to Lowell House, as they will be the first same-sex couple to serve as House Masters. They have shared a household for more than 20 years.
Allston Burr Senior Tutor Eugene McAfee said the Lowell House residents are saddened by the impending departure of the Bosserts but excited by the arrival of their successors.
"This is a very bittersweet time at Lowell House," he said, but "we're excited about the possibilities with the new Masters."
Howard and Ann Georgi
Long-time faculty member Howard Georgi has fond memories of House life, having been an undergraduate in Eliot House (Class of 1967) under the colorful Mastership of John Finley. But he and Ann could not consider moving to Cambridge until recently.
"Ann is a serious equestrian, and when we first moved back to the area in 1971, we had to keep her horse on our property, so we had to live out of town," Georgi explained. "The Topsfield area turned out to be a great place to raise our family. But now the kids are grown and the horse lives at Ann's trainer's barn, so we could respond positively to Harry Lewis's invitation."
Lewis said the Georgis are particularly qualified to be Masters because of their knowledge of Harvard, their warmth and friendliness, and their eagerness to get to know more undergraduates quickly.
"Howard is an outstanding physicist with a very strong commitment to undergraduate education," the Dean said. "We are very fortunate to have this wonderful couple taking over from the Dowlings after their long years of service."
Howard Georgi, who holds a Ph.D. from Yale (1971) and who joined the Harvard faculty in 1976, is a particle theorist who is "interested in how nature works at the very smallest distances that we can see." As a Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar this year, he is traveling to several U.S. colleges and universities to give seminars and to meet with undergraduates.
Ann Georgi earned a B.A. from Vassar College in 1969. She has been a research assistant at Harvard since 1979, conducts research on cell cycle regulation, and currently runs the laboratory of Marc Kirschner, the Carl W. Walter Professor of Cell Biology. She is also a trained mediator.
As for the Mastership, Howard Georgi said he has had a wonderful time interacting with physics undergraduates over the years but looks forward to getting to know a broader cross-section of students in the House.
Both Georgis are interested in increasing the participation of women in science and engineering, and they hope their Masterships will provide some new opportunities for that.
Copyright 1998 President and Fellows of Harvard College