Clark Gave Harvard a Second Chance

In 1967, Kim B. Clark '74 threw in the towel.

Homesick and crumbling under the pressure of being a first-year pre-med, the future dean of Harvard Business School left Cambridge.

He would not return until three years later, when he arrived back in Cambridge--older, wiser and ready to give Harvard another chance. He has not left Harvard since.

Clark is now the darling of arguably the nation's best business school. And he's made one of the most exclusive lists in America--those who could be the 27th president of Harvard.

Talking Business

Clark's three-year stint away from Harvard would be his last. A Mormon, he spent the first two years as a missionary in Germany. Returning to the U.S., he headed not for the Yard, but for Brigham Young University, which is sponsored by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

At Brigham Young, he focused on political science courses, involving himself in few extracurriculars. He also met his future wife, Sue, to whom he proposed within a month of meeting her.

Returning married and rejuvenated, his second time at Harvard proved to be the charm. Focusing on economics rather than pre-medical studies, Clark found his niche. After a stellar undergraduate career in the economics department, he earned a master's degree in 1977 and followed it with a doctorate in 1978.

Appointed to the Business School faculty that same year, Clark--now Baker Professor of Administration--became a professor in technology and operations management. In 1990, he became the department's chair.

After his appointment, Clark turned his attention to restructuring the MBA program, improving student services and increasing the school's use of technology. He instituted a school-wide e-mail system. In addition, while the MBA program still uses case studies as the focus part of the program, they now all have video and computer elements to them.

Clark declined to comment for this article through his spokesperson. In a 1996 interview with the Los Angeles Times, Clark predicted "a dramatic transformation in the way people acquire and use information."

"We want to be leaders in that process," he said. "The challenge is to reinvent the Harvard Business School."

But making the curriculum more technology-savvy didn't change core values, according to Clark.

"What we are asking the faculty to do is bring the real world into the classroom. The core teaching is the same," Clark said to the London Financial Times in 1996.

Leverett Professor in the University Jerry R. Green, who served as President Neil L. Rudenstine's first provost, says Clark would be a good choice for University president.

"He knows academic life, both from the student side and the faculty side, and he sees the big picture. He's very results-oriented. He wants to really deliver a first-class product," Green says.

In 1996, Clark told the London Financial Times that Harvard was "an important school. And it's not because of us, it's because of our alumni. We can really make a difference in the world."

Sarofim-Rock Professor of Business Administration Howard H. Stevenson says Clark would support needed innovation if he were the next president.

"He's a guy who's willing to practice and support innovation, not just talk about it," Stevenson says. "He's energetic, a person who I think people trust a lot."

"To succeed, you have to have other people want you to succeed," Stevenson says. "I suspect Kim is a person who would have that."

Stevenson says Clark had three qualities that would serve any university president well.

"He's a fabulous motivator and speaker to audiences," Stevenson says. "The alumni love him. He communicates extremely well in large groups."

"He's a deep thinker. He doesn't consider that there's a simple answer to every problem," Stevenson says. "He's a fast learner, in a practical sense. If he sees a better way to do it, no matter what has worked in the past, he'll try something new."

When appointed dean in 1995, Clark told the Boston Globe that though his predecessor had "built the foundation, I want to push this further, take this thing deeper."

Author of five books, numerous articles, working papers and case studies, Clark, is considered an expert in product development management.

Besides being the dean of HBS, Clark also serves as a director of several companies--Guidant Corporation, Tower Automotive, Inc., FleetFinancial, Inc. and Handspring, Inc.

Clark jogs on a regular basis, and is an avid golfer.

An Eagle Scout and recent recipient of the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award, Clark was very active in the Boy Scouts--until his appointment as the eighth Dean of the Faculty of the Business School in 1995. Though he is no longer a scoutmaster, Clark still keeps his Boy Scout uniform in his office at the Business School.

He is very involved in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and served as a bishop, the lay spiritual leader of a congregation, in Cambridge.

The eldest of three children, Clark has seven of his own.