Campus & Community

Oldenburg named Overseers president

4 min read

Richard E. Oldenburg, A.B. ’54, has been elected President of the University’s Board of Overseers for 2001-02. He will assume the post after Commencement, succeeding Sharon Elliott Gagnon, A.M. ’65, Ph.D. ’72.

Oldenburg is the director emeritus of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and is also honorary chairman of Sotheby’s North and South America. A member of the Overseers Executive Committee since 1999, he is the current chair of the board’s Committee on Humanities and Arts. He served this past year as one of three Overseer members of Harvard’s presidential search committee, and will complete his six-year term as Overseer in 2001-02.

“Dick Oldenburg is both a leading figure in the world of arts and culture and an admired alumnus who has served the Board of Overseers with great devotion and wisdom,” said President Neil L. Rudenstine. “In what will be an important year of transition for Harvard, I am sure that Dick will lead the Overseers with a discerning eye, a steady hand, and a strong commitment to the university as a place of learning and of culture.

“I also want to express my warm thanks to Sharon Gagnon as she concludes her distinguished presidency of the Board,” Rudenstine said. “Between her Overseer service and her tireless efforts on the presidential search, she must have spent more time in Cambridge than at home in Alaska this past year, and all of us owe her our gratitude.”

“I feel most honored to have the privilege to serve as president of the Board, especially during a year when we will welcome a new president of the University,” said Oldenburg. “My service on the Board of Overseers as well as on the presidential search committee has taught me a lot about Harvard as a whole, and it’s given me an even deeper admiration for the institution and for the people who help it flourish. I know that all of the Overseers look forward to working constructively with Larry Summers as he assumes his new role. And the entire Board joins me in expressing our profound appreciation to Neil Rudenstine as he concludes a decade of farsighted, dedicated, humane leadership of Harvard.”

Oldenburg spent the early years of his career in publishing, with Doubleday and then the Macmillan Company, before joining the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in New York in 1969. He served as the Museum’s director from 1972 to 1994. In 1995, he became director emeritus and honorary trustee of MOMA. He served as chairman of Sotheby’s North and South America from 1995 until 2000, when he was named honorary chairman.

Elected to Harvard’s Board of Overseers in 1996, Oldenburg has served since then on its Committee on Humanities and Arts, which he has chaired since 1999, and on the board’s Committee on Schools, the College, and Continuing Education. He recently became chair of the Committee to Visit the Harvard University Art Museums, having served as vice chair since 1997, and he has also assumed the chair of the Committee to Visit the Department of Visual and Environmental Studies, which he joined in 1998. In addition, he has been a member of the Overseers’ Ad Hoc Committee on Women Undergraduates, and from 1996 to 1998 he served on the Committee to Review the American Repertory Theatre.

Oldenburg’s many leadership roles in the art world have included his past service as president of the Association of Art Museum Directors, chairman of the Museum Policy Panel of the National Endowment for the Arts, and chairman of the International Committee for Modern Art Museums and Collections. His honors include the Order of the North Star of Sweden, the Order of Isabel la Católica of Spain, the Order of Arts and Letters of France, and the Legion d’Honneur of France.