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Dean of Harvard College

Donald H. Pfister, Interim Dean of Harvard College and Asa Gray Professor of Systematic Botany

University Hall, First Floor Center

Office Hours
Monday, May 5, 3 – 5 p.m.
Wednesday, May 21, 3 – 5 p.m.


Donald Pfister was appointed Interim Dean of Harvard College on July 10, 2013.

Prior to his appointment as Interim Dean, Pfister served as the Dean of Harvard Summer School.  He is also the Asa Gray Professor of Systematic Botany.

Pfister’s career at Harvard spans nearly 40 years. He is an award-winning teacher, a seminal scholar in the area of plant and fungal biology, and an important institutional leader, having served in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences in various capacities.

Pfister joined Harvard’s Department of Biology in 1974, and in 1980 was named the Asa Gray Professor of Systematic Botany in the Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology. His research centers on the biology and systematics of fungi. Using molecular, life history and morphological methods, his laboratory strives to understand their biology and relationships. In addition, he has published a bibliographic guide to the early literature on fungi, and he also studies the history of collections and collectors.

Since his initial appointment at Harvard, Pfister has been curator of the Farlow Library and Herbarium. Over the last 20 years, he has at various times served as the director, acting director and interim director of the Harvard University Herbaria.

Pfister has taught a wide range of courses in the College and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, and has also taught in Summer School and Extension School. In 2004, he was honored for 25 years of teaching at the Extension School. Beginning in 2008, with his appointment as Dean of the Summer School, he brought innovative courses to the program in Cambridge and has supported the creation of several new faculty-led study abroad programs. To help build community in the summer, he initiated both faculty lunch tables in Annenberg Hall and a faculty orientation program.  

In 2008, he received the William H. Weston Award for Teaching Excellence from the Mycological Society of America. Pfister is currently the historian and a former president of the Mycological Society.

In 1982, he became master of Kirkland House, a position he held for nearly 20 years. He has served on numerous committees responsible for the welfare of students and has been a member of the Administrative Board of the College and for University Extension.

He is the author of more than 125 peer-reviewed books, chapters and journal articles.

Pfister received his undergraduate degree in biology from Miami (Ohio) University, and a Ph.D. from Cornell University.