SOMEWHERE OVER NEW ENGLAND--As he sat in the eighth row of the 4:30 Pan Am shuttle yesterday afternoon, smiling and chatting, one would hardly have guessed that Neil L. Rudenstine was about to undertake one of the most daunting jobs in higher education.
Fog and drizzle enshrouded the half-full Boeing 727 during its 35-minute flight from New York to Boston, but Rudenstine's spirits seemed to be anything but dampened.
From his window seat, the new Harvard leader engaged reporters in friendly banter, modestly introducing himself. "Hi, I'm Neil Rudenstine," he said.
Rudenstine's wife, Angelica, and search committee chair Charles P. Slichter '45 reclined in their seats and occasionally exchanged comments across the plane's aisle. The candidate himself appeared animated, gesticulating freely as he chatted with Slichter, who had voted only hours before to approve Rudenstine as Harvard's next president.
Rudenstine declined the flight attendant's offer of a beverage and a tasty, cheese-and-crackers snack and chose instead to read, as the plane cruised along at 21,000 feet.
The flight's captain, John D. Cooper, looked surprised when he was told that he had just carried Harvard's next president to Boston. "It's always a pleasure to do a service to the great institution of Harvard University," said Cooper.