Dean John C. Snyder, 1954-1971

Dean John C. Snyder
Dean John C. Snyder, then head of the Department of Public Health Bacteriology, teaches a biostatistics class in 1947

We’re all familiar with Snyder Auditorium, the largest classroom at Harvard School of Public Health. But unless we’ve been around for decades, we probably didn’t know the man who gave the room its name–and the School an enduring legacy. John C. Snyder modernized and expanded HSPH during his 17-year tenure as dean of the School. He quadrupled the endowment, doubled the size of the faculty, and transformed the School’s physical plant from antiquated former hospitals to three modern buildings along Huntington Avenue.

As a lieutenant colonel in the Army Medical Corps during World War II, Snyder helped develop new treatments for typhus. He began his time at HSPH in 1946 as head of the Department of Public Health Bacteriology. As dean, he established departments of demography and human ecology, behavioral sciences, and the University-wide Center for Population and Development Studies.

Interviewed in Harvard Public Health magazine in 1997, Snyder said, “The thing that I am proudest of is what the students did—and are doing—in various parts of the world.” After stepping down as dean, Snyder held a professorship in population and public health and advised on developing health programs in the Middle East. He died in 2002 at age 91.

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