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Only one year before Harvard's upcoming $2.5 billion-plus fundraising campaign is scheduled to kick off, the University's top two administrative positions have suddenly become vacant.
In an announcement today that he will step down from his post in June 1991, President Derek C. Bok joins Dean of the Faculty A. Michael Spence, who will leave this fall to become dean of Stanford's Graduate School of Business.
And as they look forward to a mammoth fundraising campaign--higher education's largest ever--Harvard officials say the loss of Spence and Bok may force them to delay or redirect their planning efforts.
"Certainly the president and the dean are the two most important individuals in the University," says Peter L. Malkin '55, Harvard overseer and head of alumni fundraising efforts in New York.
And like Spence, who announced his departure at the end of March, Bok citedthe need for continuity of leadership throughoutthe campaign, saying that "fresh energy" would beneeded to steer the University into the nextdecade.
Indeed, this fresh energy seems to be alreadycoursing through the University, as several of thetop administrative positions are now held--or soonwill be held--by rookies.
Executives at the Harvard Law School, theKennedy School of Government and Radcliffe Collegeare all just completing their first year thisspring. In addition, with the resignation ofWalter M. Cabot '55, president of HarvardManagement Company and the recent appointment ofTreasurer D. Ronald Daniel, the University'sfinancial managers are also new to the school'sroutine.
Given this high turnover, fundraisers bothinside and outside the Harvard administration saythe dual resignations of Bok and Spence maythreaten the momentum of the upcoming drive.
Geyser University Professor Henry Rosovsky, aformer dean of the Faculty who will take up thepost again on an interim basis July 1, said thecampaign would go forward in any event, butacknowledged that the change in leadership mightresult in some "small postponements."
Similarly, Vice President for Finance Robert H.Scott said Bok's decision in particular may "makeplanning a little complicated for a year or so."
Still, Scott said he is optimistic that thestrategies and priorities already established byBok and Spence will make the transition easier fortheir successors.
"The new president and new dean are going to bevery grateful for all the advance planning that'sbeen done," Scott said.
But although much of the background work hasbeen done, many say that a new leadership teamwould play a significant role in the planningprocess.
"I don't think Harvard should expect that itsnext president should be committed to any plansmade before," Scott said. "A new general can leadan army in a new direction but the army will havealready been mustered."
Bok has had significant experience withprevious Harvard fundraising drives during his19-year tenure, including the recent 350thanniversary campaign which ended in 1986.
His successor, observers say, will have a lotto learn if the University is to stay on coursetoward it's latest fundraising goals.
Still, apart from the campaign's direction,officials say its success is almost assured byHarvard's sheer size and reputation.
"I tend to think that a capital campaign islarger than one person," said Terry M. Holcombe,vice president for development and alumni affairsat Yale University. "It's easier if you have thesame players, but at a place like Harvard or Yale,the basic stability of the institution is not inquestion."
And although Harvard fundraisers clearly have alot of careful thinking ahead, they say they arealso optimistic.
"My sense is that President Bok will see to anorderly transition," Malkin said. "'Fair Harvard'will continue because nobody is reallyindispensible.
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