John C. Whitehead was unanimously elected president of the Board of Overseers yesterday, despite support for a more moderate candidate at earlier meetings.
Whitehead, chair of AEA Investments and former U.S. deputy secretary of state, was formally nominated by the Overseer Nominating Committee and approved by the full Board at yesterday's meeting, according to outgoing president Robert R. Barker '36.
"It went through just like that," Barker said. "We're delighted."
Only eight weeks ago, the six-member Nominating Committee was poised to tap Peter C. Goldmark '62, a former student activist who is currently president of the Rockefeller Foundation. Many overseers, who say there is pressure on the Board to toe the University line, typified Goldmark as a leader who would have been more willing to enourage debate and dissension on the 30-member, alumni-elected Board.
But sources say Goldmark withdrew his name from consideration after controversy erupted over his near-appointment.
In an April meeting, just as the Nominating Committee was set to name Goldmark, an opposing overseer raised an obscure by-law and declared the committee invalid. The rule, which requires that members of the commitee evenly represent each of the six years of overseers seniority, derailed the nomination. At the time, two overseers on the committee were elected to the Board from the same year.
Goldmark's nomination was tabled, ironically violating another by-law requiring that a presidential nominee be forwarded no later than the April meeting. After that meeting, sources say Goldmark, who would not comment on the matter, removed his name from consideration.
Overseers are currently divided over how much openness and dissent should be permitted on the Board. Many observers say Harvard officials prefer to see the Overseers remain a rubber stamp for the policies of the seven-member Corporation.
"The administration clearly didn't want Goldmark," one overseer said after the tabling in April. "Under him, the Board would be very different than it has ever been."
Whitehead was an undergraduate at Haverford College and earned an M.B.A. from Harvard in 1947. He has served as partner or director of numerous business concerns and as trustee for Haverford, Bryn Mawr College and the Carnegie Corporation. He has co-chaired the Republican National Finance Committee, and served on the Council on Foreign Relations and the Georgetown Center for Strategic and International Studies.