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June 14, 2017

Harvard President Drew Gilpin Faust is stepping down. Faust says she will leave her post in 2018 after more than ten years on the job.

In 2007, the civil war historian became the first woman appointed to the position.

Still, Faust told reporters at the time, “I'm not the woman president of Harvard. I'm the president of Harvard.”

Faust took the helm just before the Great Recession, but managed to expand the university's Cambridge campus into Boston’s Allston neighborhood and recently completed a record-breaking $7 billion capital campaign.

Faust was also embroiled in contentious debates about Harvard's ties to slavery, and her opposition to exclusive student social clubs.

In 2012, she launched edX, a non-profit digital-learning initiative in collaboration with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

In her commencement speech last month, Faust warned students against shutting themselves off in word and thought from the world around them.

"We must remember that limiting some speech opens the dangerous possibility that the speech that is ultimately censored may be our own,” Faust told graduates. “If some words are to be treated as equivalent to physical violence and silenced or even prosecuted, who is to decide which words?”

Harvard education professor Paul Reville says Faust has made incredible contributions both to the Cambridge campus and to American higher education.

“Harvard has enormous symbolic value as well as enormous power in the world of knowledge,” Reville told WGBH’s Boston Public Radio. “I think Drew Faust filled that role extraordinarily well and I think it does matter who succeeds her.”

Reville says Faust, who critics argue did not always use Harvard's powerful bully pulpit, faced a tough act following Larry Summers, a turbulent leader who had strived to be a national voice.

“She was a quintessential internal leader,” Reville said. “Maybe she could have done more externally.”

The university says it will begin the search for Harvard's next president.

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