On Friday night, 300 guests gathered in the Kennedy Library's vast Glass Pavillion for a reception and black-the banquet illuminated only by dozens of tiny shotglass candles and the glittering lights of the skyline across the harbor.
But in the constant stream of flashbulbs, the guests could make out a few familiar faces: President Bok, his hands in his pockets, chatting with Joan Mondale: John B. Anderson, the evening's featured speaker, talking to reporters and signing autographs; Art Buckwald, puffing away at a cigar.
The following day, daylight streamed through the glass panes of the Graduate School of Design's (GSD) Gund Hall to reveal Zbigniew Brzezinski, former President Carter's former assistant for national security affairs: G. William Miller, Carter's Secretary of the Treasury: Arthur Levitt Jr., chief executive officer of the American Stock Exchange; and Buchwald and Mondale again.
Why had this collection of celebrities and visitors convened at Harvard for the weekend? The official answer shed little light on the puzzle: They were all associates and clients of GFL/Knoll in the design firm's fifth-symposium on "creative leadership."
Why the celebrities? A symposium brochure explains. "Open exchange with accomplished speakers from the cultural, political and financial communities... are intended to broaden the horizens of all participants."
"I think they just wanted to give everybody a little stuff that had nothing to do with their business." Buchwalf said after his speech, which culminated in an appeal to architects to design buildings with more bathrooms.
Harvard's role in the whole affair became a little clearer when, at the banquet, Stephen Swid, vice-chairman of GFL/Knoll, presented the first GFL/Knoll Creative Leadership Award to Marcel Breuer, a designer and architect who taught at Harvard in the '30s and '40s. Illness prevented Breuer--celebrated for the tubular steel chair that bears his name--from attending the presentation.
Swid also announced a grant in Breuer's name of $10,000 to the GSD, earmarked to hold a conference and exhibition at the GSD in 1982 entitled "The International Style in Prespective: 1932-1982."
Ironically, the design of the Kennedy Library pavillion was the evening's undoing, as virtually every word spoken over the banquet's loudspeaker system was lost in overlapping echoes in the 150-foot-high room.
From time to time, though a few words were audible. Constance Breuer, accepting for her husband: "I first met Marcel Breuer in Robinson Hall. "Stephen Swid, introducing Bok: "President Bok is no stranger to the arts." Bok, accepting the grant: "The greatness of American universities is due in part to the place they gave European architects." Marshall Cogan, chairman of GFI Knoll, closing the presentation: "Enjoy yourself, everyone. Drink, and have a wonderful time."
By far the loudest and longest round of applause during the event came when the score of Friday basketball game was announced--the Celtics over the Philadelphia 76ers, 100-98.
Upstairs, in a secluded library hallway, beneath a showcase of books about the Kennedys. John Anderson spoke of his plans for the future. He said he was leaving Saturday for Hot Springs. Va.. to address yet another symposium on creative leadership. "They must think I'm a found of knowledge on the subject." he said.
"In the meantime." he added. "I'm thinking about my own political future--what action. if any. I should take to keep alive the National Unity Campaign, which offered John Anderson and Patrick Luccy for president in 1980. I hope to come to a decision on this in the next few months."
As he spoke. Buchwald appeared, along with the inevitable cigar, and Anderson collared him and asked for a joke he could use to open his speech later that evening.
"I feel for you John." Buchwald answered. "I'm going home to work on my own. I'll tell you, I wouldn't do work on my own. I'll tell you. I wouldn't do more than ten minutes in that hall-that's as tough a hall as I've ever seen."