Campus & Community

Harvard Corporation launches its presidential search

5 min read

The Harvard Corporation has launched the search for a successor to President Lawrence H. Summers, who recently announced his decision to step down as president of the University at the end of the 2005-06 academic year. Derek Bok has agreed to serve as interim president from July 1 until a new president assumes office.

Under the University charter, a new president is elected by the Corporation, with the counsel and consent of the Board of Overseers. Consistent with past practice, the search committee will consist of the six members of the Corporation other than the president, together with three Overseers.

The search will include broad outreach to seek advice and nominations from members of the Harvard community and the wider world of higher education. Letters will soon be sent to all Harvard faculty, students, staff, and alumni, as well as selected others, soliciting their views of the opportunities and challenges facing the University as well as their counsel regarding the search. In addition, the search committee intends to pursue conversations with a wide array of individuals and groups, both within and beyond Harvard.

Over the coming months the search committee plans to consult with alumni in a series of meetings, at various locations beyond Cambridge and Boston as well as locally, to assure that the search is well informed by a range of alumni perspectives. There will also be opportunities for various alumni groups otherwise scheduled to meet in Cambridge or Boston to devote a portion of their meetings to discussing issues they believe the search committee should consider salient in seeking a new president. The Board of Overseers, with 30 members elected by Harvard alumni and broadly representative of the University’s graduates, will play a key consultative role in the search while also offering a further channel for alumni to convey their views.

To help encourage and structure input from the internal Harvard community, the Corporation will, in addition to the means employed in past presidential searches, appoint two advisory groups – one consisting of faculty, the other of students. Each will bring together individuals from a broad cross-section of the University. The members of the advisory groups will play an important role in gathering and conveying views from within the University about Harvard’s future opportunities and challenges, and about the questions and qualities the search committee should have most in mind in evaluating nominees for the presidency. It is anticipated that the chairs of the advisory groups along with the president of the Harvard Alumni Association for 2006-07 will sit with the search committee from time to time, and that representatives of the search committee will periodically attend meetings of the advisory groups, to ensure coordinated efforts and timely information flow.

“Seeking a new president is obviously a matter of crucial importance to the University, and we hope to benefit from the perspectives of the many people who care about Harvard,” said James R. Houghton, the senior member of the Harvard Corporation and chair of the search committee. “I hope that everyone with advice to offer will take the time to be in touch with us. Your counsel will contribute a great deal to the process.”

Correspondence regarding the search may be sent by mail to the Harvard University Presidential Search Committee, Loeb House, 17 Quincy St., Cambridge, MA 02138, or by e-mail to The search committee will hold the letters in strict confidence.

Houghton underscored the importance of sustaining continuity and momentum on a range of institutional priorities during this time of transition. “Thanks to the hard work of people across the University,” he said, “Harvard has in these past several years substantially intensified its commitment to a number of overarching priorities, all of which depend on our collective energy, imagination, and support.

“We are renewing the undergraduate experience as well as enhancing educational programs across the schools,” Houghton said. “We are enlarging the faculty so that it remains unmatched in its breadth and strength, while aiming to assure that the very best students can attend Harvard, whatever their financial means. We are pursuing important initiatives in science, international studies, arts and culture, and other fields, while building new bridges across traditional academic boundaries. We are planning a historic extension of Harvard’s campus, while securing new resources to help the University flourish and grow.

“Particularly at a time of leadership transition,” Houghton added, “it’s important for all of us to affirm the University’s strong commitment to its enduring objectives, and to remind ourselves of the shared purposes and fundamental strengths on which we’re fortunate to have the opportunity to build.”

The members of the search committee are:

James R. Houghton (chair) ’58, M.B.A. ’62, Fellow of Harvard College, chairman, Corning, Inc.; Frances D. Fergusson Ph.D. ’73, Harvard Overseer, president and professor of art, Vassar College; Susan L. Graham ’64, Harvard Overseer, Pehong Chen Distinguished Professor in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, University of California, Berkeley; Nannerl O. Keohane L.L.D. (honorary) ’93, Fellow of Harvard College, Laurance S. Rockefeller Distinguished Visiting Professor of Public Affairs, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University, and president emerita, Duke University; Patricia A. King J.D. ’69, Fellow of Harvard College, Carmack Waterhouse Professor of Law, Medicine, Ethics, and Public Policy, Georgetown Law Center; William F. Lee ’72, Harvard Overseer, co-managing partner, Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr, LLP; Robert D. Reischauer ’63, Fellow of Harvard College, president, The Urban Institute, and former director, Congressional Budget Office; James F. Rothenberg ’68, M.B.A. ’70, treasurer of Harvard College, president and director, Capital Research and Management Co.; Robert E. Rubin ’60, Fellow of Harvard College, director and chair of the Executive Committee, Citigroup, Inc., and former U.S. secretary of the treasury.