Stephen A. Schroeder: Should Harvard Spend Not Save

Steven A. Schroeder '60 says that before he went to Harvard he was content with "just getting by."

But since his graduation, Schroeder who now serves as the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, a charitable foundation that aims to improve the state of health and healthcare for the American people, has been a leader in the medical profession.

He served as professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco where he founded the Division of General Internal Medicine and as the chair of the Advisory Committee to the Director of the Centers for Disease Control at Harvard Medical School (HMS).

Schroeder says although he is primarily involved with health issues, he would not necessarily concentrate his energies as a member of the Board on HMS.

He cites undergraduate education as an issue that is important to him and an area at Harvard where there is much room for improvement.

"I think [Harvard] needs to devote a lot more to one of their best resources," Schroeder says.

According to Schroeder, Princeton--where he currently lives--seems to place a much higher premium on undergraduates.

"At Princeton, the culture puts a high value on its undergraduates. When a professor signs up for a class, there's a very high priority on actually fulfilling all your duties," he says.

While Schroeder says he would have to put more time into studying the workings of Harvard before he could pinpoint the changes he would attempt to institute, he says the recent capital campaign forces a crucial rethinking of the University's goals.

"One of the fundamental issues for Harvard is to what extent it should continue to grow its endowment and to what extent it should begin to use it," Schroeder says.

Spending a portion of the endowment would provide numerous opportunities, Schroeder says, ranging from devoting more money to financial aid to offering increased rewards for excellence in teaching.

Serving in a position with such broad opportunity for change would not be a problem for Schroeder, according to his long-time colleague Lewis G. Sandy, executive vice president of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

"I consider Steve a terrific example of a visionary pragmatist," Sandy says. "He has the capacity to think big and broadly, but he's also incredibly good at looking practically at what he can get done."