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Ph.D., Columbia University, (2006)
Timothy McCarthy is an award-winning scholar, educator, and activist who has taught at Harvard University since 1998. At HGSE, he is core faculty in the Equity and Opportunity Foundations Curriculum and the Online Master’s Program in Education Leadership. At the John F. Kennedy School of Government, where he was the first openly gay faculty member and still teaches the school’s only course on LGBTQ matters, he is Faculty Associate at the Center for Public Leadership and Carr Center for Human Rights Policy. He is also faculty co-chair for the "Communicating for Impact" Executive Education Program at Harvard Business School and Scholar-in-Residence on Leadership and Communication at Thayer Academy. An historian of politics and social movements, he teaches courses on equity and education, communication and leadership, and identity and social change.
McCarthy is the Academic Director emeritus and Stanley Paterson Professor of American History for the Boston Clemente Course, a free college humanities course for lower income adults in Dorchester and co-recipient of the 2015 National Humanities Medal from President Obama. He has taught in Clemente since its founding in 2001 and was honored with the 2014 Codman Square Health Center Outstanding Community Service Award for this work. He also serves on the national Board of Directors for the Clemente Course in the Humanities.
The adopted only son and grandson of public school teachers and factory workers, McCarthy graduated with honors in history and literature from Harvard College and earned his M.A., M.Phil., and Ph.D. in history from Columbia University. He is author or editor of six books, including Reckoning with History: Unfinished Stories of American Freedom (Columbia UP) and Stonewall’s Children: Living Queer History in an Age of Liberation, Loss, and Love, forthcoming from the New Press. He is a frequent media commentator whose work has been featured in Salon, Huffington Post, The Daily Beast, Pangyrus, Gay and Lesbian Review, The Nation, NPR, Al Jazeera, and BBC, and numerous podcasts. In June 2019, McCarthy was special guest editor for The Nation’s historic Reclaiming Stonewall 50 forum. He is a principal in several documentary films, including A Reckoning in Boston and Building a Bridge, which premiered at the Boston Independent Film Festival and Tribeca Film Festival in 2021. He was also creative director, head writer, and interviewer for True Colors: LGBTQ+ Our Stories, Our Songs, a PBS program that premiered in June 2022.
Twice named one of Harvard Crimson's "Professors of the Year," McCarthy has received many awards for his commitment to students, including the 2019 Manuel C. Carballo Award, the Kennedy School’s highest teaching honor, as well as the 2015 HKS Dean’s Award for Exceptional Leadership on Diversity and Inclusion, 2003 John Marquand Award for Exceptional Advising and Counseling, 2003 Aloian-Beal Award for Outstanding Contributions to House Life, and 2000 Stephen Botein Prize for Excellence in Teaching in History and Literature. He is a four-time winner of the Thomas Temple Hoopes Prize for Outstanding Senior Thesis Advising and was honored for fifteen consecutive years by the Derek Bok Center for his distinguished undergraduate teaching in Harvard College. McCarthy was also one of ten faculty members from across the university whose teaching was first showcased in HGSE’s Instructional Moves Project (now a book). In May 2020, amidst the COVID pandemic, Kennedy School graduates chose him to deliver the faculty address ("Precedented Bravery") at their virtual Class Day ceremony, and HGSE graduates selected him to deliver the 2023 Faculty Commencement Address ("Brave Awakenings in an Age of Bullies"). McCarthy was honored with the 2022 Outstanding Alumnus Award from the Philips Brooks House Association and the 2023 Evelynn M. Hammonds Award for Exceptional Service to BGLTQ+ Inclusion at Harvard University.
Inspired by the activism and organizing of his student years, McCarthy has devoted his life to public service and social justice. As founding director of Harvard’s Alternative Spring Break Church Rebuilding Program, he spent fifteen years (1997-2013) organizing hundreds of students to help rebuild Black churches destroyed in racist arson attacks throughout the United States. A respected leader in the LGBTQ+ community, he was a founding member of Barack Obama’s National LGBT Leadership Council, gave expert testimony to the Pentagon Comprehensive Working Group on the repeal of "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell," was part of the first-ever LGBTQ delegation from the United States to Palestine and Israel, and was a 2023 honoree in Portraits of Pride, a public art installation that showcases "leaders and luminaries of the LGBTQ+ community in Massachusetts." He currently serves as Board Chair for Free the Slaves, a leading global NGO in the fight against modern slavery, and is a longtime advisory board member and creative collaborator with the Tony Award-winning American Repertory Theater.
Click here to see a full list of Timothy McCarthy's courses.
Lecturer Timothy McCarthy discusses some important books in his life and career