Spangler, who was first elected to the board in 1998, managed 16 college campuses for 11 years as president of the University of North Carolina (UNC) system and oversaw the education of more than a million students as chair of the state’s Board of Education from 1982 to 1986.
He will succeed Thomas S. Williamson Jr. ’68 on June 5 as the head of Harvard’s second-highest governing body.
“It was a pleasant experience to be accepted and selected by my peers,” said Spangler, who received his MBA from Harvard Business School (HBS) in 1956 and helped fund the construction of the Spangler Center, a 121,000-square-foot student center which opened at HBS in January 2001.
The 30-member Board of Overseers, selected by all alumni of the University, elects a member every year to serve as president. The overseers advise and approve the decisions of the Harvard Corporation, a self-selecting, seven-member group which serves as the University’s highest governing board.
In 2000, Spangler became a member of the Overseers’ executive committee and currently chairs the committee on finance, administration and management, as well as the visiting committee to HBS. Spangler has also served on the committees on humanities and the arts, natural and applied sciences and alumni affairs and development.
In addition, he is one of two overseer members of the governing boards’ Joint Committee on Appointments, which approves all faculty and administrative appointments in the University’s 12 schools.
“Dick Spangler is a wise man,” University President Lawrence H. Summers said in a press release. “He has a deep devotion to education and a remarkable insight into how universities work.”
As president of the board of overseers, Spangler said he plans to work closely with Summers and the other members of the Board.
“As President Summers has goals in leading the University, I hope in fulfilling those goals, the overseers will be of assistance,” Spangler said. Spangler added that he hopes to improve opportunities for current faculty members.
“Harvard’s greatest challenge is to provide the very best education its students can achieve and it cannot begin to do that without excellent faculty members given the opportunity to both teach and do research,” he said.
Spangler said he first became interested and involved in educational issues in the early 1970s with the enrollment of his two young daughters in the Charlotte public school system in North Carolina. He was first elected to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Country Board of Education in 1972, when that system was in the midst of court-order desegregation. In 1982, Spangler was named the chair of the state’s Board of Education and remained in that position until 1986 when he became president of UNC.
After graduating from HBS in 1956 and spending two years in the army, Spangler returned to Charlotte, where he headed his family’s construction, real estate and banking operations. During the 1980s, as chair of the Bank of North Carolina, he organized a successful merger with the North Carolina National Bank Corporation, now known as NationsBank.
Though Spangler said his extensive experience in the business world was helpful in leading public educational institutions, he stressed that “the love of education is primary.”
—Staff writer Anat Maytal can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.