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The History of Harvard's Commencement, Explained

A Ten-Month Search: Careful, Comprehensive And Very Secretive


May, 1990

President Derek C. Bok announces shortly before Commencement that he will step down in June, 1991.


The nine-member search committee is named. Acting Dean of the Faculty Henry Rosovsky, who is on the committee, announces that he is not a candidate.


The committee begins to compile a list of candidates and to interview Harvard faculty and administrators about their preferences for a president.


The search committee finishes compiling a long list of more than 200 names of candidates.


The committee pares down the list to between 35 and 50 names.


At a meeting with representatives of the Undergraduate Council, search committee members rebuff a request for increased student input.


Search committee members present a list of 18 to 25 candidates to the Board of Overseers for discussion.

January, 1991

Colman M. Mockler '52 dies, leaving a vacancy on the committee that will be filled after the search.


10--Search committee members present a short list of eight candidates to the Board of Overseers for discussion. Sources say that three candidates--Martin S. Feldstein '61, Philip Leder '56, and Neil L. Rudenstine--are the frontrunners, but the committee may be dead-locked. The search committee interviews Rudenstine at a Boston hotel.

14--In Chicago, committee members interview University of Chicago Provost Gerhard Casper, who also emerges as a leading contender.


National media reports suggest that Rosovsky is still a top candidate, despite his denials.

10--Feldstein meets with the committee members in New York.

13--The search committee convenes again in New York, perhaps for the last time.

22--The Crimson first reports that the search committee will present Rudenstine as the final candidate to the Board of Overseers at a hastily-scheduled meeting in New York.

24--The Harvard Corporation and the Board of Overseers elect Rudenstine in New York. Harvard officials and Rudenstine return to Cambridge for the official announcement.

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