"In this day of non-heroes, who are America's most highly regarded men? Who, for example, is qualified to succeed Nathan Pusey when Pusey retires next June after 17 years in office?"
PARADE Magazine poses the question of the hour, and if you answered "no one" and "who isn't?", this fall's stepped-up tempo in the great presidential sweepstakes is not likely to send chills down your spine. If you immediately thought of the one man you most admire in the United States, you are apt to be somewhat ignorant of the way Harvard works. For the task of choosing a new president is a giant game-a game which is played with deadly seriousness by many-but nevertheless a game, with an elaborate system of rules (sometimes called the candidate's qualifications) that determine who is eligible for the post.
Choosing Harvard's president is also a game which should not be taken lightly. In the last 100 years, the average term of a Harvard president has been 25 years compared to the 4-year national average for college presidents. The chance to choose a new one comes only three times as often as Haley's comet and this year's, selection process promises to be one of the most interesting shows in town.
The preliminaries are now over. During the spring and summer, the Harvard Corporation, which is serving as a search committee for the new president, has sent out 203,000 letters seeking advice from students, Faculty and alumni. From the 3000 written replies and personal interviews with over 100 key Faculty members, it has compiled three "fluid lists" of possible successors for Pusey.
The first list includes names of public figures; the second has names of professors and administrators from colleges other than Harvard; and the third includes those Harvard Faculty members who have been recommended-an astonishing 110 people. (Could you name 110 Faculty members you would like to be President?)
Through consultation with Faculty members and elected student representatives, the Corporation is now paring down the lists to a realistic six or seven names. Although the original date for announcing the next president was. January 1, 1971, there is strong indication that the finalists will be determined as early as mid-November and the Overseers will meet jointly with the Corporation around December 1 to approve and announce their selection.
CERTAIN basic decisions concerning the type of man the Corporation is looking for have already been made. High on the list of qualifications sought in any candidate is acceptability to both students and Faculty. Whether this is a meaningful bow to student power or simply the pragmatic realization that no president will be successful here if he does not have the confidence of these groups, it necessitates allowing at least a selected group of students to pass judgment on the next president before he is chosen.
Given a low priority for the first time in 330 years is the stipulation that the next president be a Harvard graduate. Twenty-four of the last 24 presidents have been. But few Corporation members have expressed any concern over whether the 25th is or is not.
Whoever is chosen, the Corporation has already decided not to split the duties of the presidency into two positions before the top man is chosen. The next president will be strongly urged to create a "provost" or "chancellor" job and pick a man to fill it as soon as possible, but the chancellor and president will not be announced together.
Beyond that, the Corporation has thrown out only one other clue. In a statement released Monday, they announced that, at present, they are looking for a man "with a primary academic commitment," i.e., no politicians, businessmen, television personalities, or persons who would like to use Harvard's presidency as a spring-board to bigger and better things.
On that basis, the game of president-watching can commence in earnest. The names of likely candidates have been popping up almost weekly in the Eastern press. To sift through such rumors, there is a farrly simple guide for determining how serious such candidates are: If the name appears in Parade Magazine, it has most likely been taken from the Boston Globe; if it appears in the Globe , it was probably leaked by a conservative Boston alumnus who wants to bolster the chances of that man; if it appears in the Record-American, you can figure that the street sales of the Record are down and they need to boost circulation; if it appears under a Washington, D.C. dateline, the information comes from three reporters who decided to get the man out of Washington; if the news appears in the New York Times, the man is likely to be one of the seven candidates; finally, if the name appears any time before November 1st, it's an outright guess.
ONE NEED only take a look at those candidates being prominently mentioned to get a head start on the fall sweepstakes. Among them, there are definitely seven leading contenders who will not be president of Harvard.
You might say that S. I. Hayakawa has as good a chance of being president as any non-white, non-Anglo-Saxon, non-Protestant person in the country. But he doesn't even have that.
Over the summer, an infamous "poll" of alumni mail reportedly showed S. I. Hayakawa and John W. Gardner, former Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare, running neck and neck in the hearts and minds of the alums. The poll, however, was nothing more than a cursory sampling of names being sent in, and even in that sampling, conservatives and Time magazine (which reprinted the poll) will be dismayed to learn that Hayakawa is not high among the people seriously being considered.
Putting aside all philosophic, rational, and moral arguments explaining why S. I. Hayakawa will never be president of Harvard, there is still one overriding practical reason: at 64, he is only two years away from the mandatory retirement age of 66, and would be able to serve only one year after taking over in June.
The other half of the Hayakawa-Gardner poll might have been both a good choice for the Corporation and a good guess for the Corporation watcher.
A graduate of Stanford with a Ph.D. from the University of California and a host of honorary degrees (including one from Harvard in 1966), Gardner has not only the academic credentials but also the administrative experience and government connections necessary to run a bulky bureaucratic university which relies on the federal government for 40 per cent of its income.
He has been both president of the Carnegie Foundation (1955-65) and Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare under Johnson. A fellow at the Kennedy School of Government for a year and the Godkin lecturer here two years ago, Gardner is also well-connected and much admired in the liberal Eastern establishment which holds the final power over the choice of a president. This is perhaps one reason why his name keeps cropping up on the Harvard lists.
Gardner's reputation as a liberal, however, is based largely on books and writings which are not only eloquent, but perhaps a bit too logically precise for the likings of Harvard. "He's an essayist rather than a writer, an executive more than a leader, and has the air of being prestigious rather than important," one Harvard Faculty member said. "I think he's probably more universally admired than he is liked."
"HED probably run into giant problems with the Faculty," a friend admitted. "The number of cliches John uses would get him into trouble."
Despite such theoretical objections to Gardner, there have been hints in the last few weeks that the man is just not planning to come to Harvard. Traditionally, the kiss of death in the presidential sweepstakes is being named as the leading contender. When Harvard announces that Gardner is the alumni's leading choice (whether it's true or not), it probably means he's unavailable.
What they know is that Gardner has already turned down several university presidencies equally as prestigious as Harvard's. His rejection of the presidency of Stanford, his almamater, and a chance to work in the same state where his children are now living signaled his general coolness to the idea. And his new Washington project which he just started with the Urban Coalition is expected to tie him down there for at least two years.
Kingman Brewster, 51, president of Yale University: "Kingman Brewster is the perfect model, but I think everyone is afraid he wants to be president of the country, not Harvard," one man who sat in search committee meetings said last month.
At 51, Brewster does indeed have all the qualifications which the Corporation is looking for. Many people are now contrasting Brewster's handling of the May Day Panther demonlast Spring with Pusey's handling of the Harvard Strike in 1969. And they are the people who like what they see.
A dynamic figure, well-liked by his students, Brewster is known for being cool in crises-and it is not unreasonable to assume that Harvard's next 20 years will have plenty.
During the Spring, his decision to throw open the doors of Yale to incoming demonstrators and his statement of "skepticism" that a Black Panther could get a fair trial in this country are credited with saving Yale from physical destruction.
THERE are many, however, who themselves are skeptical that Brewster can do at Harvard what he has done at Yale. First of all, he entered Yale without any reputation to live up to or enemies to stave off. His reputation is now well established; were he to come to Harvard, he would be expected to at least meet that reputation and most probably surpass it.
More important is the fact that Harvard is a very different school from Yale. Harvard is only one of many major powers in Boston where Yale, situated in an otherwise desolate New Haven, is the power in the city. The students are also quite different. Last Spring, one-third of the Yale students left town for the May Day celebration, another one-third locked themselves in their rooms with their KLH's hidden under the bed, and the last third served soup through the weekend.
For these reasons, the name Kingman Brewster is always followed by the word "type." He is a model for the next president and nothing more.
From Brewster's own perspective, he has nothing to gain by switching from number two to number one. His name is forever linked to Yale, and if his eye is looking anywhere beyond Yale, it is most probably pointed toward Washington rather than Cambridge.
The Corporation still clings strongly to the notion that the presidency of Harvard is the end of a career rather than the beginning. "We do not want what happened at Brandeis with Morris Abram to happen here," one Corporation member explained. Abram took over as president of Brandeis two years ago, and after gaining fame for his handling of a black student protest last year, resigned to run unsuccessfully for the Senate seat in New York.
Last year, there was only one man in this University who could walk into a crowd of demonstrators and tell a State Department official, "On the authority of the President of this University, I command you to get out of that cab."
His name is Archibald Cox. His occupation for the last year has been right-hand man. Among those who count, he is thought to have exercised this power with great finesse and strength.
Unfortunately, his strength has been a little too much and his finesse a bit too clever. If there is any one "law and order" candidate for the presidency, Cox is it. As such he is getting a large boost from conservative professors on the Faculty who think of his role last year as primarily a judicial one, and who believe a judicious man is a man in whose hands the university should be placed.
To alumni and some Faculty, Cox's credenuals are impeccable. His public notices mark him as a moderate liberal: the man who sorted out the meaning of Columbia and was one of the first to give the official stamp of approval to the theory that college administrators were out of touch.
TO STUDENTS, however, Cox was no more than the Administration enforcer, and it is unlikely that as president, he could shake such an image. He has always been aloof and evasive to undergraduates, the only administrator on the campus who could say fewer words per public appearance than Pusey.
Still, Cox is not to be discounted, because there is a prevailing opinion that Harvard needs such a man: A distinguished older president who through sheer prestige and demeanor might hold the university together for five or six more years while it straightens itself out.
This idea (the "Pope John" theory as it is called in the inner circles of Harvard's search committee) has been neither heralded or rejected to date. Should the Corporation not find an ideal candidate in the prescribed age range of 40-55 years old, it might choose an older man to sit at the top for a few years and let the innovators and their innovations run their course.
Like Brewster and Gardner, however, it is doubtful that Cox would take the post even if it were offered to him. There have been persistent rumors that he turned down a top administrative post at Harvard last Spring, opting for the trouble-shooter spot. In that position, he has quite likely had his fill of student crises equally as much as students have had their fill of him.
Mary I. Bunting, 60, president of Radcliffe College: You can count the number of women that have been seriously suggested for Harvard's presidency on one finger, and her name is Mary 1. Bunting. Unfortunately, the headline of this article tells the story.
Perhaps next time around, Harvard will have advanced to the point where they will deny that sex is a criterion in choosing a president. Right now, the Corporation doesn't think it's worth the effort. The mention of a woman president last week brought an abashed smile to the face of one Corporation member and that silent, plaintive look best interpreted as "Now, come on, get serious."
As president of Radcliffe, Mrs. Bunting has been a favorable contrast to the present Harvard president. Where he is reticent and formal with students, she is relaxed. While he watched the 1969 bust at University Hall from his balcony with binoculars, she arrived at the scene and mingled with the students. When Pusey refuses to sign a letter of protest to the President, her name is usually near the top.
Although Mrs. Bunting is beyond the desired age range (40-55) it would be nice to think she is in the running. But she's not.
Elliot L. Richardson, 50, Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare: Any man who the Record-American thinks is going to be president of Harvard, isn't. Any man who is so closely tied to the Nixon Administration as Elliot Richardson is, isn't. Any man who has spent his entire life in politics may be a good choice for heading the alumni association, but a Harvard president, he isn't.
As a former president of the alumni association (1957-60), it is not surprising though that Richardson, a liberal Republican Brahmin from Beacon Hill, should be popularly mentioned. Descriptions of his qualifications from some supporters boil down to the fact that he is a "good man" and one need only look to his enthusiastic participation as a member of the Boston Council of the Boy Scouts of America in 1964 to confirm it.
Harvard has many "good men" to choose from, however, and Richardson appears to be everyone's second choice. The statement today that the Corporation is seeking a man "with a primary academic commitment" applies most directly to a man like Richardson. He does not.
McGeorge Bundy, 51, president of the Ford Foundation: In 1953, when Nathan Pusey was announced to be the 24th president of Harvard, classicist John Finley remarked "sic transit gloria Bundy." The then 34-year-old bright star of the Harvard government department moved into the number two position at Harvard, dean of the Faculty, where he made many friends and admirers that stand him in good stead today.
With a reputation as a tough, quick-witted problem solver, Bundy is the kind of man the Corporation probably wished it had chosen 10 years ago. He is someone who can shuffle through the exigencies of crisis, come up with a practical and quick solution, and have the problem in control before the Corporation comes up for its Monday meetings-not afterward as happened so often with President Pusey.
Now it is too late. "He's logical, a tough reasoner; in short, a tough nut. Yet out of hand he's unacceptable even though he was the best Dean the Faculty ever had," a Washington friend said. "He's got a 'A' on his forehead. People know he was wrong on the War and consequently, they think he's wrong on everything."
"Mac," Kingman Brewster said in 1968, "is going to spend the rest of his life trying to justify his mistakes in Vietnam."
Bundy's deep involvement in the Vietnam strategy through the bitter end days of Lyndon Johnson is likely to rankle more anti-war Faculty members than students. The average freshman was 14 when Bundy bailed out of the Johnson Administration in 1966, and never got a good chance to get up a hate for the man.
Still, the image which Bundy projects is that of a corporate man. A ?ale graduate, Harvard dean, State Department power, Ford Foundation president-Harvard could not choose a man more intimately tied to the bureaucratic side of every major establishment institution in the country. And with the least bit of forethought, it won't.
( Monday: now that you know seven people who won't be president, read about five who might. )