Provost Considered for Top Post
Hyman’s resumé may make him most qualified candidate
For University Provost Steven E. Hyman, being a presidential candidate is becoming an annual event.
He was considered for the presidency of MIT in 2004, the top job at Boston University in 2005, and was a finalist in the University of Chicago’s presidential search last spring, according to a source close to the provost.
The source was not named so that the individual’s relationship with Hyman may be preserved. The provost has declined to discuss his candidacy on the record.
MIT and BU passed on Hyman, and he withdrew his name from the University of Chicago race due in part to family considerations, the source says. Now, with the disclosure that his name is on the list of candidates for Harvard’s own presidency released to the Board of Overseers earlier this month, Hyman has found himself in the thick of yet another presidential search.
But while Hyman’s resume may cement his status as one of the most qualified candidates, his shot at the presidency is far from assured.
‘THE NUMBER TWO’
Along with presidents of other schools, incumbent provosts are some of the most traditional candidates in presidential searches, according to Richard P. Chait, professor of higher education at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education.
In their role as chief academic officers for universities, provosts tend to be "well known to the community, steeped in the culture of the organization, and have already achieved a high level of respect," Chait says. "If you’re looking for a number one, it’s entirely logical to look at the number two."
For many Harvard observers and faculty members, Hyman typifies those qualities.
"He’s seen the running of the University up close for several years now, so his learning curve would be minimal," says Richard Bradley, who wrote the book "Harvard Rules" and blogs about Harvard on his Web site.
"He knows the institutions very well, [and] the issues," says Judith Ryan, the Weary professor of German and comparative literature. "He knows what’s on people’s minds."
On Hyman’s watch, the provost’s office has more than doubled in size. When he was appointed in 2001, Hyman oversaw five administrators; the office now includes a senior vice provost, three vice provosts, two senior associate provosts, three associate provosts, an assistant provost, and a deputy provost.
Hyman and his staff say this growth is due in large part to new responsibilities—such as the Allston expansion and University-wide diversity and science initiatives—that have fallen under Hyman’s purview.
And while the provost at Harvard is less powerful than provosts at comparable universities, according to Harvard historian Morton Keller, "it’s become more substantive in recent years, because the University has become much more interfaculty and interschool."
SHARING THE LOAD
Hyman’s increasing influence culminated this year under Interim President Derek C. Bok, with the two sharing some of the presidential duties.