McGeorge Bundy will become a professor of history at New York University after he retires from the Ford Foundation, NYU President John C. Sawhill announced today.

Bundy, who will be 60 in March, was a professor of government and dean of the faculty of arts and sciences at Harvard in the 1950s before becoming President Kennedy's influential assistant for national security affairs.

Bundy said today that he won't know exactly what he will be doing when he joins the NYU faculty Sept. 1 until he leaves the Ford Foundation and has time to concentrate on his new position.

He probably will not teach during his first year, but after that will give seminars for graduate students while doing research and writing, Bundy said. In general, his subject will be contemporary history focusing on the national and international problems of nuclear energy and weaponry, NYU said.

Bundy said he decided some years ago that he wanted to stay in New York City, had not considered any positions elsewhere, and was delighted with his appointment at NYU.

Bundy was the first of the modernera White House national security advisers to operate with a "mini-State Department" staff and to exercise great power within the government because of his access to the president, a role in which Henry A. Kissinger and the incumbent, Zbigiew Brzezinski, have followed him.

The adviser's importance in the shaping of foreign policy under Presidents Kennedy and Johnson rivaled that of the secretaries of state and defense, a situation that was not taken for granted before Bundy arrived on the Washington scene.

In profiling Bundy, reporters never neglected to mention that he joined those secretaries and the president at the regular Tuesday lunches. And at times of crisis, Bundy was always playing an important role.

Johnson sent Bundy to Vietnam and the Dominican Republic to make firsthand assessments. On both, Bundy took a tough line. He was in Vietnam in February 1965 when Vietcong mortar fire hit the airfield at Pleiku, killing and wounding Americans. Bundy urged retaliation and Johnson ordered the first bombing raids against North Vietnam.

After more than five years at the center of events in Washington, Bundy took over the Ford Foundation on March 1, 1966. Its longest-serving president, he will step down June 1 and Franklin Thomas will succeed him.

Bundy decided in 1974 that he would leave the foundation when he became 60.

At Ford, his first major decision was to devote important resources of the nation's largest foundation to help blacks achieve equality.

"I am pleased that Bundy has agreed to become a member of NYU's distinguished faculty of arts and science," Sawhill said. "It is very fortunate that he is returning to the academic world and that he will be resuming his scholarly pursuits at NYU. His wide-ranging experiences and scholarship will enable him to contribute significantly to the history department as well as to the entire faculty of arts and science."