Chase Peterson Resigns, Takes Medical Post in Utah
Dr. Chase N. Peterson '52, vice president of alumni affairs and development, yesterday decided to resign from Harvard, effective June 30, to assume the post of vice president for health sciences at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City.
Until President Bok took on Harvard's presidency in 1971, the University had only one vice president. Bok reorganized the central administration and appointed four vice presidents. Peterson is now the fourth of the original four appointees to resign.
Peterson, a 48-year-old endocrinologist and native of Utah, said yesterday that after serving as a Harvard administrator for 11 years, first as dean of admissions and then in his current position, he decided it was time to "re-earn my medical stripes" and "return to the western Great Basin."
Peterson had been the key figure in planning for Harvard's upcoming capital fund drive. He said that although he is proud of his achievement in his vice presidency here--including setting up a framework for the fund campaign--he does not feel that he is indispensible to the drive's success.
"It's been a painful process to think about leaving Harvard," he said. "When I informed President Bok this morning that I was leaving, I said, 'I came to Harvard a Puritan and I leave Harvard a Puritan. And Puritans do their duty.' If I thought that I had a job only I could do I would stay, but Harvard's now in a good position to move on," he said.
Peterson said that if he stayed to launch the drive, he would probably feel obligated to see it through the entire five or six years. "I'm an atypical person to be here and 11 years is pushing it. It's time to get back to medicine," he said.
A source in the administration who wished to remain anonymous first revealed Peterson's imminent departure yesterday but several other associates of Peterson's declined to comment on his decision. His resignation was not scheduled to become public until later this week and several officials yesterday said they didn't even know he was leaving.
"Well I'll be darned," George Putnam Jr. '49, Harvard treasurer, said yesterday, "I thought Chase turned down that job weeks ago," he added.
Putnam said it was too soon to know who will replace Peterson, even on a temporary basis, but said that such officials as Alfred M. Gibbens, director of the Development Office, are "quite capable of holding the world together."
David A. Aloian '49, the new executive director of the Associated Harvard Alumni, and Robert G. Stone Jr. '45, a member of the Harvard Corporation who will probably chair the capital drive, will also help smooth over any transition period, Putnam said.
"Chase has made great contributions to Harvard. He's done a tremendous job and we'll miss him," he added.
President Bok initially declined to discuss rumors of Peterson's resignation yesterday but later last night he issued a statement acknowledging Peterson's decision and praising his "extraordinary service to Harvard."
Peterson has "attracted many exceptionally able individuals to work in alumni affairs and development, and helped to lift the level of support to the University to new heights. His loyalty to Harvard and his concern for its welfare have been a constant source of encouragement to me. He has now elected to return to his profession and his native state in a post of major responsibility," the statement read in part.
David P. Gardner, president of the University of Utah, yesterday said Peterson is "a seasoned university administrator. During his years as a private practitioner in Salt Lake City, he earned a great deal of respect among members of the medical community. He knows the state of Utah well, and is highly recognized by those with whom he will be working."
In his new post, Peterson will oversee the University of Utah's College of Medicine, the College of Pharmacy, the College of Nursing, the College of Health, the 310-bed University Hospital, and the student health services, Gardner said.
Among his other duties, Peterson will serve as a liason between the university and the state government. Peterson estimated, however, that he will spend about 30 per cent of his time in clinical medical practice.
Peterson is a practicing Mormon but he said that his religion is not a major factor in his decision. "It's more challenging in some ways to be a Mormon in Cambridge," he said. He added that the return to Utah is, in a sense, a "return to my 'roots.' "
Peterson's father was president of the University of Utah from 1916 to 1945, and Peterson was later an assistant clinical professor of medicine there. He now succeeds Dr. John A. Dixon, who is leaving the Utah administration to return full-time to teaching and medical practice