Search to Go Forward

News Analysis

When Corporation member Colman M. Mockler Jr. '52 died suddenly last Friday, his colleagues on the University's preeminent governing body were faced with both a personal and a professional loss.

With the Harvard search committee already running several weeks late in its efforts to appoint the new president, the death of Mockler will likely mean more worries and complications.

Selecting a new Corporation member will further delay the search process. And without a replacement for Mockler, the committee will lose the experienced voice of a respected Boston business mind.

Almost a week after Mockler, the chief executive officer of Gillette Company, collapsed outside his Boston office, the consensus among top Harvard officials is that the presidency question must be resolved before Corporation members choose a new member.

"We're in the presidency search right now," said Corporation member Robert G. Stone Jr. '45. "We won't consider looking for a new Corporation member until the big question has been decided--that's the important thing right now."


"We're still in shock from his death," said Judith R. Hope, the newest member of the Corporation. "We still haven't come anywhere near thinking about [a replacement]. And we're too far along in the search already to turn back now."

Hope said that with Harvard officials still concerned with filling the top two positions in the University--President and Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences--it will be unlikely for a Corporation member to be chosen until the fall.

The search committee, which is made up of all Corporation members except outgoing President Derek C. Bok and three Overseers, will simply have to compensate for the loss of Mockler, said Henry Rosovsky, acting Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.

"It removes one person on the search committee," Rosovsky said. "We were nine and we are now eight."

Despite this willingness to continue with the search, Corporation members and Harvard officials are not attempting to diminish the role Mockler played in the group.

"He had the experience of many years running a very complex organization," said Daniel Steiner '54, vice president and general counsel to the University. "In the current Corporation, there is no one who brings that kind of management experience."

"In the Corporation, he spoke up with distinction," said Treasurer D. Ronald Daniel. "It's a fact that sitting on a group with so many top academics--Derek Bok, Henry Rosovsky, Charles Slichter--it's possible a person from business would wonder if he should be there, but Coleman clearly never felt that."

A graduate of both the College and the Business School, Mockler successfully worked his way up through the ranks at Gillette and was appointed its head in 1975. During his tenure, he fought off several corporate raiders and eventually pushed the Boston company to the top of the American personal products industry.

In the search process, Mockler--a former president of the Board of Overseers--played an important part in outlining the managerial profile of the ideal presidency candidate, according to his colleagues on the committee.

And now, with the search in its very final stages, the contributions Mockler made to this candidate profile will still be used to make the final decision.

"Any candidate [for the presidency] will have a track record in organizational management, so you'll be able to judge from this record," Steiner said. "Through the combination of people on the search committee, you will be able to decide, but losing Mockler will hurt."

"A lot of people on the Corporation have experience across the board on a lot of things," Stone said. "I've had a lot of business experience and so has [search committee member and president of the Board of Overseers John C. Whitehead], but Mockler was a great help in the search."

While the Corporation members said they have not given the question of replacing Mockler much thought, his loss leaves the governing body without a major representative of the business world.

While many members said the Corporation will not automatically award Mockler's spot to another businessperson, the candidates from the business world will be closely considered, Steiner said.

"It should be taken into account what is now on the Corporation and what kind of experience and personal qualities will add most to the group," Steiner said. "If you had three or four lawyers, you would not consider another lawyer. If you had no academics, you might look to academia."

"There are no niches in the Corporation, you can't position Mockler," Daniel said. "He didn't just bat clean-up or lead-off, you can't peg him that way."

Despite being born in St. Louis, Mockler had lived in New England for 40 years and was the only true "Bostonian" on the Corporation--a body which has traditionally always had local representation.

"25 years ago, almost everyone on the Corporation was from Boston," said Robert H. Scott, vice president for finance. "Geography will be a factor, but surely not the only one."

"Harvard is still very much a Boston institution, as opposed to a national one," Steiner said. "It's probably true enough that Bostonians will be considered."

Still taken aback by the suddenness of Mockler's death, most Corporation members are simply filled with regret at the loss of a man with "the utmost integrity," Scott said.

"With good sound business judgement on the finances of the University, he added a great deal," Stone said. "He will be a hard man to replace.