AS MEMBERS OF THE UNIVERISTY'S HIGHEST governing board filed into the Loeb House Cabot Room for their first meeting of the year, they were greeted by an uncommon sight: name tags in front of every seat.
The occasion for the unusual protocol was the seating of the newest member of the Corporation, James R. Houghton '58, chair and CEO of Corning Inc.
The name cards were brought out to key him into the official seating order and hence avoid any uncomfortable moments. Indeed, the placards mark the beginning of Houghton's education in the customs and procedures of America's oldest corporation, whose members arrange themselves in order of decreasing seniority to the left of the president.
"This is one of those wonderful archaic things that I'm sure will amuse everybody," says Corporation member and Geyser University Professor Henry Rosovsky.
The top-secret proceedings of the Corporation, coupled with its unique role as a board of directors involved proactively in the University affairs, mean new members must learn the ins and outs of the governing board before making their presence felt.
Eventually, as the years go by, Houghton will likely move slowly along the table, until he becomes, literally, the president's left-hand man.
For now, however, members of the board say they are pleased with Houghton's arrival--and their new and improved seating accommodations.
"I greatly approve of that," says Rosovsky. "Up until now, I had to look through the glare of the windows, and now I can look at the beautiful old clock."
James R. Houghton, known as "Jamie" to most acquaintances, was born in Corning, N.Y. in 1936 into a Harvard family which had founded Corning Inc., the inventor of Corningware glass.
Harvard College was a logical step for Jamie Houghton after he graduated from the prestigious St. Paul's prep school in 1954.
He followed a long line of Houghtons to Harvard College. He was a name on campus before he arrived; Houghton Library, the majestic home of the University's rare book collection was named after his family.
Jamie Houghton's father, Amory Houghton '21, was active in alumni affairs and was the Divinity School's primary benefactor for many years, according to Vice President for Development and Alumni Affairs Fred L. Glimp '50. Amory Houghton also endowed the Chemistry Department chair now occupied by Dean of the Faculty Jeremy R. Knowles.
Upon his arrival, Jamie Houghton lived in Lowell House, concentrated in history and became an active member of the A.D. final club.
During these younger days, Houghton is said to have exhibited much of the same energy that many say they admire him for today.