After nearly 20 years in office, President Derek Curtis Bok announced today he will resign his post in June, 1991.
Bok, 60, said he made the decision to step down last fall.
"I've always had a feeling for the last few years that 20 years more or less would be right," Bok said in an interview with The Crimson today. "With the possibility of a major fundraising drive, I thought it best to step aside and have there be some continuity [in leadership] for the fund drive."
Bok's resignation leaves the top two posts in the University empty and awaiting appointments. Dean of the Faculty A. Michael Spence announced last month that he is leaving the University to become dean of Stanford University's business school.
The administrative vacancies come at a time when Harvard is gearing up for a major fundraising campaign, expected to be higher education's largest ever. The drive, originally slated to start in the fall of 1991, may be delayed because of Bok's decision, fundraisers said.
Although there has been speculation in recent years that Bok would go into government or become the head of a philanthropic foundation upon leaving Harvard, he said today he has no employment plans as of yet.
"I haven't really pursued it," Bok said. "I though it would be inappropriate to talk about jobs as long as I hadn't announced my resignation." He added that Corporation members have urged him to accept a University professorship and remain at Harvard.
The last decade has seen sporadic speculation about Bok's plans to resign. Several educators said today that the length of the president's tenure and the rumors of his resignation had somewhat prepared them for the announcement.
"It's like a 90-year-old grandmother," quipped Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education David Pilbeam. "You expect her to die every year, but you're shocked when she actually does."
Administrators and professors today praised Bok's accomplishments as president, crediting him with leaving the University in a much more stable position--academically and financially--than it was when he was appointed in 1970 after serving as dean of the Law School.
Among his greatest achievements, they said, have been restoring stability after the tumultuous 1960s; creating the Kennedy School of Government; increasing Harvard's emphasis on undergraduate education and teaching; and critically examining various aspects of the University in his annual reports.
"He cared about every nook and cranny of Harvard," said Geyser University Professor Henry Rosovsky, part of the seven-member Corporation, Harvard's chief governing board. "I find it impossible to imagine Harvard without Derek Bok."
Throughout his tenure, Bok has faced criticism from some students and alumni for his refusal to completely divest Harvard's investments in South Africa-related firms.
Others have attacked him for making the University more corporate, pointing to his creation of the Medical Science Partners, which markets University research, and the endowment's involvement in controversial leveraged buyouts.
But administrators said that despite the criticisms Bok has been a consensus-maker who weathered the University through many storms.
"He's been a leader in addressing many issues of social concern," said Vice President and General Counsel Daniel Steiner '54, specifically pointing to investment policy. "Whether or not people agreed with his policies, Harvard was way ahead of the pack in shareholder responsibility."
And Harvard Alumni Association President John P. Reardon '60, formerly athletic director, praised Bok's interest in undergraduate life and his efforts to improve the physical plant of Harvard's athletic facilities.
But some had mixed evaluations of Bok's tenure. Overseer Peter H. Wood '64, who was elected to the alumni board on a pro-divestment platform, said the president had been too conservative.
"He created a level of stability that some people might consider even too stable," Wood said.
Wood said Bok had not put enough emphasis on fundraising for weak programs such as African and Women's Studies, and instead used the funds for projects like expanding athletic facilities.
"Other people might have had different priorities," Wood said. "Bok presided over the marriage of Harvard and Radcliffe, but Women's Studies isstill weak. Things like that depend on strongleadership from the top."
Bok demured from citing his mainaccomplishments as president, instead pointing tothe great changes that Harvard has undergoneduring his tenure.
He cited the diversification of the studentbody and faculty, the creation of the KennedySchool out of "a small office in Littauer" andeducation initiatives such as the Core Curriculumand New Pathways, the innovative Medical Schoolprogram that emphasizes the case study method overtraditional classroom instruction.
Bok said some of his successor's chiefchallenges will be projects Harvard has startedduring his tenure. The planned University-widecapital campaign, the move towardinternationalization of the curriculum and anincipient environmental studies program are allinitiatives the next president will inherit.
In addition, Bok said his successor will face aworsening climate of criticism of higher educationand a shortage of government funding.
In what could amount to a major restructuringof the University's central administration, Boksaid the University may appoint a provost, alongwith the next president, to share leadershipduties during the capital campaign.
The president would handle fundraising dutiesand overall governance, and the provost would bemore involved in academic affairs, Bok said.
"My estimate is that it's going to be difficultnot having someone who can share the load with thepresident," he said.
Harvard's last provost, Bok said, was appointedunder former President James B. Conant, who servedas president from 1933 to 1953.
Bok said he will not participate in the HarvardCorporation's search for his successor, a stancehe says is fairly standard among universitypresidents.
"It's just as well if the incumbent doesn'tplay a role in the selection," he said.
Several administrators close to Bok, includingCorporation member Rosovsky, who will serve asacting dean of the faculty starting July 1, andAssociate Dean for International Affairs Joseph S.Nye, said they had learned of Bok's plans to leavebefore the formal announcement.
Some professors and administrators speculatedthat the logical choice for a new Harvardpresident is normally the dean of the Faculty. Butsince Spence is leaving for Stanford, theselection was hard to predict, they said.
One overseer said that foundation heads whohave graduated from Harvard, such as OverseerPeter C. Goldmark '62, are a likely bet.
But Goldmark said he would not be selected "ina thousand years."
And Stanford President Donald Kennedy '52, aclose associate of Bok's, said Bok's succesorwould almost definitely be a full-time Harvardfaculty member or administrator.
The scion of a wealthy Philadelphia family, Bokreceived his undergraduate degree from Stanford in 1951and graduated from Harvard Law School in 1954,where he was any editor of the Harvard LawReview.
He joined the Harvard faculty of law as anassistant professor in 1958 and received tenure in1961. He became dean in 1968.
He has published several books on both laborlaw and higher education, most recentlyUniversities and the Future of America.