Bok: A Lucky Man Who Made the Grade

"The first thing you'll have to do is get a phone you can disconnect," Francis H. Burr '35, Senior Fellow of the Corporation, told President-elect Derek C. Bok yesterday afternoon.

Burr gave his bit of advice to Bok, dean of the Law School, as the two men were standing on the tenth floor of Holyoke Center, waiting for an elevator after a 45-minute press conference in which Bok's election had been announced.

Bok's phone has been ringing for the last week and woke him at 3:30 a.m. yesterday morning, he said, even though he had placed it out in the hall under a blanket.

The day began officially at a more civilized hour when he gave his secretary a memorandum addressed to Law School faculty and staff members so that she could prepare it in anticipation of an announcement which was no longer even an open secret. Bok then spent the rest of the morning, including two-and-a-half hours with CRIMSON reporters, waiting for the expected phone call from Burr.

The Overseers began meeting at 10 a.m. in the Faculty room of University Hall, which was built in 1815 by Charles Bullfinch and studded with portraits and statues of famous Harvard Presidents and professors. The Corporation gathered in an adjoining room in Dean Dunlop's office.

Approval for Bok's selection took more than two hours as the full Board of Overseers questioned Burr-who supervised the selection process-and members of their executive committee on their interviews with Bok.

As the questions ended, Robert L. Hoguet '31, an Overseer from New York, rose to make the final nomination, but President Pusey interrupted. "No, I'd like to make this resolution," he said. "I nominate Derek Bok as the 25th President of Harvard University."

At 12:25 p.m., the Overseers applauded both their choice and Burr, the man who can take most of the credit for picking him, as Burr walked out of the room to call the new President.

The Call

Bok received the call at exactly 12:30 p.m. in his office, where he had been awaiting the word all morning. His secretary screened all the calls as he sat in his office with his wife Sissela, becoming visibly more fidgety as the wait stretched beyond the expected noon deadline.

Finally, his secretary put the call through, and he spoke briefly to Burr, ending by wishing him a pleasant fishing trip in New Zealand. He walked over to his wife, said, "Well, that's that. It's done," and kissed her. His three secretaries, somewhat teary-eyed, stood in the doorway as he explained to them solemnly that he could not have told them anything earlier. Then he said he needed a vacation.

The celebration in his office was brief and subdued. A representative from the Law School secretaries' association cornered him as Albert M. Sacks, associate dean of the Law School and Bok's probable successor as acting dean, entered the office. Bok finished his short conversation and then greeted Sacks with a bear hug.

By now his memo to the Law School had been sent out. In the brief statement, he said:

"I am very disappointed that you should have had to read about this decision in the newspapers instead of hearing about it directly from me. I hope you appreciate that I had no control over the circumstances that compelled me to remain silent nor those that resulted in the premature reports of my departure."

Bok spent most of the morning in an interview with the CRIMSON in which he dropped all pretense that he was not about to be named President and spoke in detail about his new job and the University.

"I don't think a President can do the job I think is needed if he spends a great deal of personal time raising money," he said. Instead, he said, "I would hope to develop the machinery with capable people in charge" who could raise funds.