The Presidential Search

They filtered into the Boston Harbor Hotel on the afternoon of Feb. 25—a roll call of Harvard’s most powerful people: the six members of the Harvard Corporation and three members of the Board of Overseers who composed the University’s presidential search committee.

Today’s was not just any meeting. This was it: The Interview. They had met 15 times before, solicited advice from 300 people and narrowed down their list from 500 to three—all the while remaining tight-lipped about the process. Nine months, hundreds of hours and thousands of frequent flyer miles had led to Lawrence H. Summers.

Now, on a sleety Sunday, the search committee ate a late lunch in the aptly named Intrigue Café. Reporters staked out the lobby, and the rumor mill was enchanted with a man named Bollinger.

Summers arrived at the hotel’s underground garage in a chauffeured sedan and was escorted through the freight elevator up to the 16th-floor presidential suite, where he rendezvoused with the committee. For more than five hours, Summers spoke with the committee, answering questions, offering opinions, and presenting his plan for Harvard University.

It was not his first time interviewing with some members of the search committee, but others were encountering his renowned intellect for the first time.

“After a long and intense search, we knew we were coming to an important moment and a great time for the future,” one member said.

At the end of the meeting, the search committee was almost certain: Summers was their man.

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