When The Crimson profiled Hugh Calkins '45 five years ago, his was a rapidly rising star both at Harvard and in his hometown of Cleveland. The newest face on the Corporation during the turmoil of 1969, Calkins soon became the best known, taking over as de facto public spokesman for the administration. His urbane wit supplanted the isolated and hostile President Pusey on local TV shows and in frequent meetings around the University.
Calkins was also nearing the end of his first term on the Cleveland School Board in 1969. He had been elected to that body as a liberal hope and he was (and is) fond of making analogies between Harvard and his experiences there. With his reputation as one of the best and brightest secure both in Cleveland and at Harvard, his opportunities seemed just about limitless. In the better watering spots of Cleveland, it is said, Calkins was touted as a possible successor to the mantles of Jack Kennedy and John Lindsay.
The bubble, if indeed it had ever existed, soon collapsed. The voters of Cleveland decisively threw Calkins off the School Board and Harvard replaced Pusey with President Bok, a man who needed no public relations spokesman. Professors Blum and Slichter, Bok, and Treasurer George Putnam all became new faces on the Corporation. Perhaps Harvard and Cleveland, like the rest of the country, was tired of dynamic and glamorous men; more likely the Calkins boomlet reflected few of Calkin's real desires.
Calkins was in 1969, and still is, a partner in the prestigious law firm of Jones, Day, Cockley & Reavis, so his life went on, probably with revised goals and lessened ambition. His qualifications are still impressive; Calkins's background contains what one associate calls "a hat-trick of credentials"--president of The Crimson in 1942, president of the Harvard Law Review, and clerkships with Justices Learned Hand and Felix Frankfurter.
Although one of the reasons given for Calkins's election to the Corporation in 1968 was a desire to have representation from the Midwest, Calkins actually grew up in Newton and attended Exeter before coming to Harvard. The decision to settle in Cleveland, Calkins admits, was a calculated one. "I decided to practice law in a large representative city such as Cleveland on the hunch that in this way I could find effective and independent involvement with whatever turned out to be the action and passion of our time," he wrote in his class's 25th reunion report.
Along the way, Calkins also spoke out publicly against the Vietnam War. Early in this country's military involvement, lawyer Calkins says he tried to justify the U.S. position but "I realized in defending it that the arguments for it weren't very convincing." He made his case well enough or often enough to catch Chuck Colson's eye. Calkins (along with Bok) made the second of Nixon's enemy lists, notoriety Calkins attributes to a 1969 anti-war speech he made in Dunster House.
With this background, Calkins was a natural for selection to the Corporation in 1968.
Calkins himself ascribes the choice to his school board experiences: "They may have wanted someone familiar with confrontation politics."
It might have been a prescient choice by the other members of the Corporation, for Calkins was the right man at the right time during the strike the next year. He used much of his considerable energy masterminding skillful press releases for the Corporation, meeting with students and faculty, and even marched into The Crimson one day to type out a reply to what he claimed was a distortion of his position on a Yard poster.
But that verve seems to have subsided in recent years; Calkins has dug deeper in fields with which he is familiar. Now 50, he says he is perfectly happy continuing to practice tax and corporate law, a field in which he is highly regarded. Part of the attraction of that life, he says, is that there is no one with a monopoly on his time, so he can find enough for both law practice and civic involvements.
Profiles of the treasurer and the remaining three Fellows of Harvard College will appear Wednesday.