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When President Derek C. Bok tapped Henry Rosovsky as interim dean of the Faculty, he made about the safest choice possible.
Rosovsky, whose 25 years at Harvard have been dotted with a variety of top administrative posts, arguably knows more about the ins and outs of the University than anyone else alive.
A close friend and adviser to Bok, Rosovsky, 62, has been chair of the Economics Department, dean of the Faculty, a member of the seven-member Corporation and acting president of the University.
"When in doubt, you go back to what you are sure of," says Susan R. Suleiman, professor of comparative literature and romance languages and literatures.
"Why pick an unknown for a one-year appointment?," Suleiman asks. "[Rosovsky] is an old, familar, trusted person."
Despite his long list of accomplishments, Rosovsky himself says that before Bok asked him to fill in as FAS dean for the departing A. Michael Spence, he had no expectation of securing yet another administrative post.
"I've been out of that building for six years, and I never thought I would come back into it in any other capacity than as a professor," says Rosovsky in reference to University Hall.
The charismatic Rosovsky will be remembered for decades as the creator of Harvard's Core curriculum.
The Core, designed to expose students to different approaches to knowledge, was seen by some educators as revolutionary, but was decried by others, most notably former Education Secretary William J. Bennett, as morally relativistic and ineffective.
So dedicated was Rosovsky to the Core that he turned down the Yale presidency in 1977 to oversee its implementation.
Rosovsky, an economist specializing in Japan, is also credited with leading FAS through budgetary problems during his 11-year deanship which ended in 1984.
In addition, Rosovsky created a "kitchen cabinent" out of a handful of senior professors to advise him on administrative matters. By decreasing the frequency of large faculty debates, like those seen in the late 1960's, the dean put the emphasis on committees as the centers of change in the Faculty.
"He will fit very easily into the office," says Professor of Government Roderick MacFarquhar, who is one of six members of President Derek C. Bok's deanship search committee. "He will be very much taking up the reigns not quite where he left off, but obviously...he will know all the problems."
Since Rosovsky left the deanship, he authored called The University: An Owner's Manual, in which he reflects on the state of higher education and spells out some of the strategies he discovered were the key to being a successful administrator.
In the chapter on being dean of the Faculty, Rosovsky lists "Learn the value of being vague," "cultivate the art of asking people for money; your career may depend on the results," "never underestimate the difficulty of changing false beliefs by facts" and "learn to think big--especially when dollars are the measure" as important lessons for a successful dean.
Although Rosovsky is not expected to rock the boat as interim executive, some faculty members suggested that his vast experience and strong personality mean that he will not be entirely passive either.
"Rosovsky never follows any line--he's a man of great originality and independence," says Kenan Professor of English and American Literature and Language Helen H. Vendler, another member of Bok's search committee.
"He does not impose management," Vendler says. "He brings people into the forum of management with him."
Specifically, Rosovsky will have to take up the mantle of the massive fundraising drive which Spence has been planning for FAS.
In addition, Bok has said he expects Spence's successor to continue the dean's highly-touted plan to tenure more professors from within the University.
Despite the clearly defined expectations for Rosovsky's temporary deanship, his colleagues say that the post at the top of FAS is by definition a trying one.
"To go back to the firing line is something beyond the call of duty," says Baird Professor of Science Dudley R. Herschbach. "I think it is remarkable further evidence of Rosovsky's great dedication to the University. Having done it for 11 years already is quite a cross to bear."
Rosovsky's books include Discord in the Pacific: Challenges to the Japanese-American Alliance, Asia's New Giant: How the Japanese Economy Works and Japanese Economic Growth: Trend Acceleration in the Twentieth Century.
Born in the free city of Danzig, Rosovsky received his A.B. from the College of William and Mary in 1949 and his masters and doctorate from Harvard.
Rebecca L. Walkowitz contributed to the reporting of this story.
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