Prominent Dean, History Director Leaves Harvard

Zakarin, beloved by students, will move to Chicago with wife

Bradley S. Zakarin, the former assistant director of undergraduate studies for Harvard’s history department, will move with his wife to Chicago in the fall, the new assistant director of undergraduate studies confirmed.

Zakarin, who also served as Mather House’s Allston Burr Resident Dean, made the decision to move to Chicago after his wife was hired for a faculty position at Northwestern University, said Adam G. Beaver ’00, who took over Zakarin’s history department position this summer.

Beaver, who was a history graduate student that worked with Zakarin for the past few years, said that history students shouldn’t expect much change in advising during the transition.

“I think we both have a similar approach to students as far as wanting the best for their undergraduate learning experience,” Beaver said. “Brad and I see eye-to-eye on the way we wanted advising and the curriculum to work and allow students the freedom to learn about what interests them. He has left a wonderful legacy.”

According to one former Mather House resident, Peter J. Martinez ’07, it was Zakarin’s students-first attitude that made him popular.

“He would really put himself on the line for his students and always had the students’ best interest in mind,” Martinez said.

Zakarin was also a lecturer on international and global history.

Isaias N. Chaves ’08, who served as a peer concentration adviser for the department, wrote in an e-mail that Zakarin left a long-lasting impression on him despite the short time they spent working together.

“He was a terrific guy, very affable, funny, with lost of charisma, very good at answering questions,” Chaves wrote.

“Students, I gathered, liked him because he was young and a ‘chill guy’ they could relate to.”

Chaves, who did not know of Zakarin’s plans to leave before being contacted by The Crimson, added that Zakarin was responsible for his decision to concentrate in history.

“First thing he said when I sat down in his office was, ‘So, tell me, Isa, what I need to do in this meeting to get you to switch to history,’” Chaves wrote. “Fifteen minutes later I dropped my would-have-been government sophomore tutorial like a hot brick.”

Chaves also wrote that he does not begrudge Zakarin’s decision to leave, but worries that Harvard might not be able to find an adequate replacement.

“I’m sad to hear that he’s leaving,” Chaves wrote. “He did a really great job as [assistant director of undergraduate studies].”

Vivek Viswanathan ’09, who had Zakarin as his freshman academic adviser, wrote in an e-mail from England that Zakarin’s advice about his varied experiences at Harvard made Viswanathan’s own first year at the College much more manageable.

“Brad was a wonderful academic adviser,” Viswanathan wrote. “I think that, because he was a Resident Dean, he understood fully the manner in which academic requirements differ across departments, and so he was always reassuring in his advice for what kinds of courses to take, given that none of his advisees was set on a concentration.”

Viswanathan, who also described Zakarin’s course advice as “unfailingly candid,” said that some of his warmest memories from freshman year include eating a home-cooked meal at Zakarin’s house and watching him stroll the yard with his well-known dog, Dopey.

Martinez said that he distinctly remembers one encounter with Zakarin that summed up, for the recent graduate, both his likability and adaptability.

“Brad was always a huge Red Sox fan,” Martinez said. “But then one day I saw Dopey with a Chicago Cubs bandana tied around his neck.”

When he asked Zakarin how he’d suddenly switched allegiances, Martinez said that Zakarin told him, “‘I’m a Cubs fan now. I’m moving to Chicago.’”

—Staff writer Nathan C. Strauss can be reached at