It is with profound gratitude for the accomplishments of a singular Harvard career that I write to announce that Margot Gill, FAS Administrative Dean for International Affairs, will be retiring at the end of this calendar year. Through her many roles at Harvard over the years, Margot has been the FAS’s ambassador, forging connections with international governmental and institutional partners to further our Faculty’s teaching and research mission. She has been a fierce advocate for our students, and, in recent years, she has also been the one opening “Harvard’s front door” as the Interim University Marshal, welcoming dignitaries from around the world. Over her 40 years of service, Margot has epitomized what it means to be both Crimson through and through and a purposeful citizen of the world, to the great benefit of our academic community.
Dean Gill served for more than 20 years as Administrative Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS), and her leadership contributed to many important changes over that time. During her tenure, GSAS strengthened relationships with Harvard’s professional schools through the growth of multiple interfaculty PhD programs, launched the Harvard Integrated Life Sciences (HILS) Program, and created new interdisciplinary curricular offerings, including the Graduate Consortia, Graduate Secondary Fields, and Graduate Research Workshops. GSAS also increased faculty engagement through the formation of the Graduate Policy Committee and regular meetings and retreats with directors of graduate studies. But Dean Gill’s heart has always been with our students, and multiple generations of Harvard graduate students, myself included, have benefited from Margot’s leadership, advocacy, and unwavering commitment to student success. As a graduate student in the Government Department, more than once, I found myself at Margot’s door seeking her counsel and, of course, funding—always funding!—to support some aspect of my research and training. She always made time to meet and left me feeling like I had the best possible ally, ready to help tackle the challenges before me. I imagine other colleagues have similar stories of Margot acting as guide and guardian angel during their graduate studies. With her leadership, GSAS significantly improved graduate student financial aid, summer language and research funding, and improved student resources in Dudley House, now the GSAS Student Center. There has been no stronger advocate for providing greater services to international students in GSAS, and she oversaw the creation of the English Language Program (ELP), which served as a model for intensive English language training and acculturation to the American classroom.
As Administrative Dean of GSAS, Margot partnered with Harvard’s many area and international centers as they expanded their involvement in supporting graduate studies and led the organization of alumni outreach across the United States and around the world, with regular convenings in Asia, Europe, Latin America, and Canada. As the Graduate School’s point person and primary negotiator for all new interfaculty PhD programs, she developed a profound understanding of the needs and concerns, both practical and conceptual, of academic leaders when establishing new agreements to enable academic programs. This experience made her the obvious candidate to serve as the first FAS Administrative Dean for International Affairs, a role she assumed in 2015. In this role, Margot has been a trusted partner in advancing our Faculty’s international initiatives, where she has been a liaison to and key negotiator with foreign governments, international corporations and universities, foundations, and NGOs on behalf of the FAS. In addition to her responsibilities as the administrative dean, she has chaired the University’s Committee on General Scholarships and overseen agreements and government relationships throughout Latin America, Asia, Europe, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. With an eye always toward student success, Margot has worked diligently to expand resources for international students, negotiating scholarship agreements with foreign governments and foundations across the globe that support bringing international students to Harvard and also provide resources for undergraduate and graduate research opportunities abroad.
Few people on Harvard’s campus rival Margot’s expertise and depth of understanding of the sweeping range of the University’s international engagements, making her the ideal choice to serve in the final years of her Harvard career as the University’s Interim Marshal. With the goal of making Harvard truly accessible to the world, Margot has welcomed a host of distinguished guests and visiting dignitaries and delegations with her characteristic warmth and care. She has provided Harvard’s many special visitors with a human face to welcome them and give them a broader sense of the University, its history, and its place in the world today.
Harvard now enters a new chapter in advancing its international agenda, in a time when that work is beset with new and considerable challenges. The Harvard community is now learning and teaching together across the globe, connected through a virtual community, at once physically distant and deeply connected. Through her wisdom, care, and counsel, Margot has built a strong foundation for us. As she begins a well-deserved next chapter, we learn from her example to advance Harvard’s mission passionately and as a means of connection between people, countries, cultures, and ideas.
Edgerley Family Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences