In a letter to University President Lawrence H. Summers, Harvard Corporation member and Enron director Herbert S. “Pug” Winokur ’64-’65 wrote he was concerned that his role at Enron was “diverting attention from your agenda for Harvard and from the important work of the Corporation and the University.”
The announcement of Winokur’s resignation—effective June 30—came without public warning, at a moment when campus criticism of Winokur’s place on the Corporation had subsided.
A University official said Winokur and the rest of the Corporation had discussed his Enron involvement on several occasions, and it became likely that he would step down by the end of the year.
The official added that ultimately the Corporation members wanted to avoid the impression that they had forced Winokur to resign.
“The feeling was that he should not resign in the middle of [the controversy] when charges were really flying around,” the official said. “They didn’t want it to look like Harvard was deserting Winokur.”
Winokur’s Corporation colleagues praised his analytical skills and dedication to Harvard.
“He’s got very good judgement, and we just hate to lose him,” said Senior Corporation Fellow Robert G. Stone Jr. ’45, who helped to select Winokur as a member of the Corporation just two years ago.
“I think he did what’s right,” Stone said. “I think he felt uneasy with the Enron connection and didn’t want to be an embarrassment at Harvard.”
Summers lauded Winokur’s commitment to Harvard during his time on the Corporation.
“Pug Winokur has been an energetic and insightful member of the Harvard Corporation, and I am saddened by the circumstances that have prompted his decision to step down,” Summers said in a statement released Friday. “He has served Harvard with devotion and intelligence, and we owe him our gratitude for his valuable contributions to the governance of the University.”
While Summers has previously declined to comment on Winokur’s situation, he has said that serving on the Corporation requires a significant contribution of time and attention.
“It would certainly be true of any Corporation member that if they weren’t able to make the appropriate time commitment to the Corporation it wouldn’t be possible for them to serve on the Corporation,” Summers said in a February interview.
Winokur was called before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce in early February to testify about his role as an Enron director during the company’s questionable business dealings and subsequent collapse. He also testified regarding his participation on the company’s special committee for internal investigation formed after Enron’s collapse.
Winokur’s participation on this investigative committee drew fire from members of Congress.
“Mr. Winokur is essentially investigating his own actions and approving or disapproving the resulting report,” Rep. John D. Dingell (D-Mich.) and Rep. Peter Deutsch (D-Fla.) wrote in a February letter.