Drew Gilpin Faust, 59, dean of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study and a leading historian on the American South, will be formally appointed president as early as this weekend, according to a source with knowledge of the decision.
Faust, a popular figure on campus known for her collegiality, will succeed the blunt Summers, an economist and former U.S. treasury secretary whose combative five-year tenure as president ended last year. His departure followed a faculty revolt after he suggested that the shortage of elite female scientists may stem in part from "innate" differences between men and women.
Many educators said Harvard's decision would send a message to other major research universities in the country -- 14 percent of which are headed by women.
Faust will end the succession of 27 white men who have held the president's title at America's oldest institution of higher education. She will take the reins from Derek Bok, 75, a former 20-year Harvard president who took over as interim leader when Summers left.