Newly appointed member of the Harvard Corporation Richard A. Smith '46 seems like he will fit right in with Harvard's top governing board.
Like most fellows of the self-selecting seven-member Corporation, Smith is shy of the press, dedicated to Harvard and used to dealing with lots and lots of money.
Former Overseer Arnold Hiatt '48, chair of the Stride-Rite Corporation, says Smith is "not a renegade, not a radical."
Indeed, Smith, who serves as chair of General Cinema Corporation, is something of an insider. A graduate of Harvard College, he has served on the Board of Overseers since 1988.
Some say Smith is similar to the person whose seat he will fill on the corporation. The late Colman M. Mockler Jr. '52, who chaired the Gillette Corporation, was also a local resident, skilled businessperson and a graduate of Harvard College. Mockler was seen by many as a mediator who tried to find compromises when members of the Corporation disagreed.
Bonnie Meltzer, a professional at a charitable foundation who works closely with Smith, calls the new corporation member "a brilliant mediator." She says, "He really uses his leadership to bring people together." And Professor of Pediatrics Emeritus William Berenberg '36 says Smith is "a statesman."
"He can see both sides of an issue," Berenberg says.
Smith, like Mockler, is a local. Corporation Member Judith R. Hope says the Corporation was looking for someone who was "if possible, from the Boston area." And University Marshal Richard Hunt says one of Smith's assets is that he is "very prominently known in the Harvard-New England area."
Still, Hope says the search committee was not looking for an exact duplicate of Mockler.
It remains to be seen what role Smith will play on the Harvard Corporation, which decides matters of institutional, fiscal and institutional policy. For that matter, it remains to be seen how long the 67-year-old Smith will even serve on the Corporation.
Members have an informal agreement to retire at age 70. If Smith follows that tradition, his will be essentially an interim appointment.
But current Corporation member Hope says Smith's term may not be so short. "I think we're hoping that he'll stay on longer than that," she says.
And Hope down-plays any concerns about Smith's age. "He is a very strong, very fit man," she says.
Hope tells of having trouble with an "extremely heavy suitcase" while in New York for a March meeting to vote on the selection of Neil L. Rudenstine as Harvard's 26th president. Hope, who lifts weights for exercise, considered taking a taxi for a trip of several blocks in cold, windy weather.
"Dick Smith said 'now don't be silly, I'll carry that'," Hope says. "And he picked it up like a piece of tissue paper."
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