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Rosovsky Says He Is Not a Candidate For the Presidency

By Adam K. Goodheart

Geyser University Professor Henry Rosovsky, whom many had considered the inside-track contender for the Harvard presidency, surprised the University last Friday with an unequivocal announcement that he will not be a candidate.

Professors and administrators said they thought Rosovsky's unusual public statement, which was printed in the Harvard Gazette, was a response to the seeming impropriety of his being thought of as a candidate while he holds a seat on the Harvard Corporation. The seven members of the Corporation, which is Harvard's top governing board, are serving on the presidential search committee and will make the final selection.

"I am not a candidate," Rosovsky wrote in the three-paragraph announcement. "I do not wish to be a candidate. I do desire to work with my colleagues on the search committee and to assist them to the best of my ability in their critical task: to find a new leader for our University."

Rosovsky declined comment yesterday. But Peter Costa who is executive editor of the Gazette and director of Harvard's news office, said Rosovsky discussed his reasons for the statement with him for about half an hour before submitting it last Thursday.

Costa said Rosovsky cited his age, 62, as the primary reason he does not wish to be a candidate.

"He said he felt that with the rigors of the presidency and the fundraising campaign, Harvard should be looking for someone younger," Costa said.

In the two months since President Derek C. Bok announced his impending retirement, a number of newspapers--including The Crimson, the New York Times and the Boston Globe--ran stories that quoted Harvard insiders as saying Rosovsky was the most likely successor. Some said the popular professor and former dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences would serve for a few years during Harvard's planned $2 billion fund drive, then step down to be replaced by someone younger.

Several professors and administrators said yesterday that Rosovsky's presence as a possible candidate threatened to hinder the search process by making many at Harvard ignore other potential candidates. They said his public announcement clears the way for others, particularly younger and less well-known contenders, to enter the field.

"Nobody wants to be nominated if they think there's a strong internal candidate who's the obvious choice," Costa said. "To go up against a candidate as popular as Mr. Rosovsky would be very difficult."

Most observers said that the main cause of all the speculation was, simply, wishful thinking. Rosovsky has long been one of the most respected figures at the University, and many of his admirers among professors and alumni had been pushing for his nomination.

John P. Reardon '60, who is executive director of the Harvard Alumni Association, said Rosovsky's name came up in many of his conversations with alumni about a possible president.

"People have enormous respect for HenryRosovsky as a professor and as an administrator,and he has great qualifications to run anyinstitution," Reardon said. "It's natural peoplewould be talking about him."

Last week was not the first time Rosovsky bowedout of consideration for the presidency of a majoruniversity. In 1977, he was invited to becomepresident of Yale, but declined the post in orderto stay on as dean at Harvard, where he was thenoccupied as primary architect of the CoreCurriculum.

Many assumed--and hoped--that Rosovsky wassaving himself in order to serve as Bok'ssuccessor. He has remained a high-profilecommentator on education issues, and published awell-received book on universities early thisyear.

But several University insiders said yesterdaythat while Rosovsky was probably interested in thepresidency at one time, he lost his chance forgood in 1985, when he accepted an appointment asthe first Harvard professor in more than a centuryto be named to the Corporation.

Since colonial times, the Corporation has hadthe power to choose Harvard presidents. So ifRosovsky had allowed himself to be discussed as apresidential candidate, most observers said, hecould not have remained a Corporation member.

"Everybody knows it would have been a conflictof interest," said Wells Professor of PoliticalEconomy Jerry R. Green, a colleague of Rosovsky'sin the Economics Department.

Still, the fact that Rosovsky chose to make apublic announcement took most Harvard officials bysurprise.

"It wasn't expected," said Costa. "It was alittle unusual. But he felt that in the internaland the external community, there was a need toknow where he stood. He felt it would be best ifhe outlined it in really specific language.

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