Lawrence Summers, the president of Harvard University, quit this week, days before academics were to consider a second vote of no confidence in his leadership.
Derek Bok, president of Harvard from 1971 to 1991, will return as caretaker of the elite US university when Mr Summers steps down on June 30. Mr Summers will remain at Harvard as a "university professor".
Mr Summers says in a resignation letter: "I have reluctantly concluded that the rifts between me and segments of the arts and sciences faculty make it infeasible for me to advance the agenda of renewal that I see as crucial to Harvard's future. I believe, therefore, that it is best for the university to have new leadership."
Accepting his resignation, Harvard's board said: "While this past year has been a difficult and sometimes wrenching one in the life of the university, we look back on the past five years with appreciation for all that has been accomplished."
The second vote of no confidence was expected on February 28. The first vote followed Mr Summers comments in January 2005 that women's underrepresentation in the higher echelons of science and mathematics could be because of innate differences in their academic abilities compared with men.