Six Elected to Board of Overseers

A former New York Times reporter, a cardiologist, and the head of a Smithsonian museum are among the six newly elected members of the Board of Overseers, Harvard’s second-highest governing board.

Lawyer Morgan Chu, cardiologist Walter Clair ’77, former New York Times reporter Linda J. Greenhouse ’68, New York City Public Schools Chief Operating Officer Photeine M. Anagnostopoulos ’81, and the Smithsonian’s Director of the Museum of Natural History Cristián Samper won six-year terms in an alumni vote to serve on the 30-member board.Former CEO of Vertex Pharmaceuticals Joshua S. Boger, who received the sixth most votes, will serve the remaining three-year term vacated by Arne S. Duncan ’86, who left to serve as U.S. Secretary of Education.

Those six beat out four other candidates, two of whom were nominated by petition. Professor Margaret Levi, a professor of international studies at the University of Washington, and Mark D. Gearan ’78, the president of Hobart and William Smith Colleges, were nominated by the Harvard Alumni Association, and lawyers Robert L. Freedman ’62 and Harvey A. Silverglate ’67—who informally ran together—were nominated by petition.

The successful candidates said that they were thrilled to be elected, but also expressed a degree of humility about the scope of their new roles.

“I view as the Board both historically and into the future as being more of a best friend, a best pal, than an overseer if it is someone who is higher than others,” said Morgan Chu, who found out that he had won during Commencement, where his brother, U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, delivered the keynote address.

But the petition candidates argued that the Board of Overseers should play a more assertive role.

“I believe the role of the Overseer is to oversee,” Silverglate said, adding that he sees it as a “deadly” trend that organizations—both non-profits and for-profit corporations—are increasingly “being run by their administrators rather than by their boards.”

Silverglate stressed the importance of reforming Harvard College’s Administrative Board, which he called “the worst” disciplinary body in the country. Freedman, who is more focused on the curriculum, argued that Harvard should implement an optional great books program in spite of the financial crisis.

“To me, the curriculum doesn’t teach the important stuff. In fact, to me, there’s no curriculum,” Freedman said. “I think [students] need grounding in the basics, and I don’t think they get it anymore.”

Silverglate finished in eighth place, and Freedman finished last.

Although Silverglate and Freedman argued that the Board of Overseers has been acting too much like a rubber stamp, the Board will have at least one new member with experience asking probing questions.

There was one silver lining for Linda Greenhouse in her decision to take a buyout from the New York Times last year.

The Harvard Alumni Association had approached her a few years ago to ask if she was interested in running. But when she asked for permission from then-executive editor Joseph Lelyveld ’58, he said it would be a conflict of interest for her to take part in confidential discussions while being obligated to report to the Times, which covers Harvard.

Greenhouse said that one of the first things she did after taking the buyout last year was approach the Harvard Alumni Association and some of her friends on the Board of Overseers to see if they could “get the ball rolling” again.

The Board of Overseers, which meets five times a year to discuss University matters, reports to the Harvard Corporation, the University’s chief governing body. The Overseers are responsible for ratifying some of the Corporation’s major decisions, such as the selection of new University Presidents.

—Staff writer Bonnie J. Kavoussi can be reached at kavoussi@fas.harvard.edu.

CORRECTION

An earlier online version of this article gave an incorrect title for Photeine M. Anagnostopoulos ’81. In fact, Anagnostopoulos is the chief operating officer of New York City's public schools, not their superintendent.