Harvard University is poised to select Drew Gaulpin Faust as its first female president, putting a renowned historian with strong ties to Philadelphia at the helm of what many regard as the nation's top university.

According to reports by the Boston Globe and Harvard Crimson, Faust - currently dean of Harvard's Radcliffe Institute - will officially be named Harvard's 28th president as early as this weekend.

Faust, 59, was in Philadelphia today, attending a meeting of the board of trustees of Bryn Mawr College, of which she is a member. She declined to comment on the Harvard job as she left the meeting this afternoon, but she was the last trustee to depart and allowed photographers to take her picture.

Faust received her undergraduate degree at Bryn Mawr and her graduate degree at the University of Pennsylvania. She became a highly regarded expert on the Civil War and the American South, and taught in Penn's history department for 25 years before moving to Harvard in 2001.

The reports in the Globe and the Crimson both cited anonymous sources who claimed that a special meeting of Harvard's Board of Overseers - which must approve Faust's appointment - had been called for Sunday.

"I am still unable to discuss the search process until it reaches its conclusion," Harvard spokesman John Longbrake said.

Penn president Amy Gutmann - who was herself rumored to be a candidate for the Harvard post despite her insistence that she would stay at Penn - praised Faust earlier this week as "everything a Harvard president should be."

If selected, Faust would become the fourth female president of the eight schools in the Ivy League.

"I think it signals an important tipping point in American higher education," Gutmann said earlier this week. "Once you can have half the Ivy League presidents women, it means there should be no limit to what women can accomplish on the basis of true equal opportunity."

Faust would succeed Lawrence H. Summers, who resigned last year amid ongoing faculty dissatisfaction with his performance. The dissension was triggered by remarks he made in an academic setting that suggested women may have less natural aptitude for math and science than men.

Contact staff writer Patrick Kerkstra at 215-854-2795 or pkerkstra@phillynews.com.