He Wrote the Book

Henry Rosovsky

No one doubts that outgoing Dean of the Faculty Henry Rosovsky knows a thing or two about Harvard. After all, he wrote the book.

A Harvard scholar for more than 26 years, now Geyser University professor and a Corporation member, Rosovsky is a self-proclaimed "owner." He understands the rules of the game--he helped make them.

For those who haven't heard by now, Rosovsky recently published The University: An Owner's Manual, a 309-page book about his first term as dean from 1973 to 1984.

Despite his acknowledged savoir faire, as the 63-year-old economist ends his second, and he hopes last, tour of duty in University Hall, he says this past year has not been without its difficulties. They are the difficulties, one might say, of one who knows too much.

"The last time around, I had goals and ambitions," says Rosovsky. "[This time] it is quite different. Basically I had to operate without a long-term plan. It turns you basically into a fireman."


Few faculty members, however, say they expected Rosovsky to be anything more than a stabilizing figure, someone to stay the course.

"It was a a caretaker deanship. It had to be," says Michael B. McElroy, Rotch professor of atmospheric science and at one time among the candidates to succeed Rosovsky as dean.

You can't get much more stable than Rosovsky. A member of Harvard's chief governing body for life, the acting dean is self-confident. He commands respect. He was offered the Yale presidency in 1977, but he didn't take it.

He thought he had finished the "dean" stage of his career when he left that post in 1984, but then A. Michael Spence unexpectedly announced his resignation last year, and suddenly Rosovsky was back to fill the gap.

The appointment may be temporary, but those close to the one-year dean say Rosovsky maintains a solid grasp of the bigger picture.

"I was particularly impressed by his ability to plan and organize in light of the University's future, even if his own management is for the short term," says Brendan A. Maher, dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. "He took much more into account than other people would have."

He had little choice, given his permanent responsibilities as a Corporation member. Indeed, Rosovsky's many hats are sometimes confusing. As dean, Rosovsky occupied what many have called the University's number two administrative post. Meanwhile, he spent a good part of this year helping to fill Harvard's top position--the presidency.

Although Maher and other administrators took on added responsibilities while Rosovsky was working on the presidential search, the acting dean still maintained a very full schedule. Rosovsky's familiarity with his post and his fellow scholars, colleagues say, made these multiple roles easier.

"He is of course very experienced. He knows all the people and has come back into the job with remarkable ease," says Associate Dean for Academic Affairs Phyllis Keller, the first person Rosovsky hired when he assumed the deanship in 1973.

"He has put his personal stamp on the deanship," Keller says. "He is a collegial person--people like him and respect him."