The search that thrust University President Lee Bollinger into the national spotlight ended yesterday when Harvard University named former U.S. Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers as its 27th president.
The search committee”s recommendation of Summers was approved by Harvard”s Board of Overseers yesterday afternoon at a two-hour meeting in New York City.
“I look forward to working closely with faculty, students, staff and alumni to further the teaching and scholarship of this great institution,” Summers told reporters on a teleconference from the Harvard campus yesterday.
He added that he “will have a very difficult act to follow,” referring to current Harvard President Neil Rudenstine, who will formally leave the post in June. Summers will take control July 1.
At 46, Summers will be one of the youngest Harvard presidents in history, but is no stranger to the Cambridge, Mass., campus he received his doctorate in economics from Harvard in 1982, and returned as a professor in the following year.
Bollinger, who had been tagged as the front-runner for the post, said yesterday he was “relieved” to have the ordeal done but maintained his silence on the search process.
“I just can”t talk about the details,” he said, but added that he had felt “fully informed” throughout the process.
“I strongly expected it would be Summers,” he added.
Harvard Provost Harvey Fineberg was the other top finalist, although search committee members had appeared to focus most of their attention on Bollinger and Summers.
Ultimately, it may have been Bollinger”s lack of a Harvard degree that gave Summers the edge.
“I think it came down to the fact that Harvard couldn”t pull the trigger on a candidate who didn”t have a Harvard degree,” said University of Michigan Regent Dan Horning (R-Grand Haven).
Added Horning: “I truly believe they did not pick the best candidate.”
Other members of the Board of Regents echoed Horning”s sentiments.
“If he had a degree from Harvard, they would”ve selected him,” said Larry Deitch (DBloomfield Hills).
Bollinger”s candidacy first captured media attention in the beginning of January, when the search committee narrowed its initial list of 300-400 names down to less than 40. Some of those who didn”t make the first cut included President Bill Clinton and Vice-President Al Gore.
As the months wore on, media attention continued to focus on Bollinger, especially after he was interviewed for a third time in New York City at the end of February. As reports continued to put Bollinger at the front of the pack of a search that was supposed to be confidential, frustration in Ann Arbor mounted.
“The sooner it ends, the better for everyone,” University Regent David Brandon (R-Ann Arbor) said last week, referring to the tense wait for Harvard”s official announcement.
Many in the University community expressed relief that Bollinger will remain in Ann Arbor for the foreseeable future.
“I am overjoyed that Harvard has been stuffy and foolish enough to pass him up,” said English Prof. Ralph Williams. “They couldn”t have done better than Lee Bollinger.”
University Regent Olivia Maynard agreed. “I”m really very happy Lee Bollinger is staying president of the University of Michigan, but I would have been happy for him if he had received the offer,” she said.