On Your Marks, Get Set, Rowe

News Feature

When James H. Rowe '73 was a first-year student in 1969, he had no idea that 25 years later he would return as Harvard's vice president for government, community and public affairs.

But New England Telephone knew.

This summer, Rowe moved into his newly purchased Cambridge home. At that time, his insurance assessor informed him he had two listed phone numbers, one of which was for his 1969 Pennypacker 17 address.

"I have to call whoever lives there and apologize," Rowe says.

The 43-year-old Rowe has yet to connect with the four first-year women sharing his newly renovated Pennypacker quad. Instead, he's been connecting with Harvard bureaucrats, city officials and government powers-that-be.

Specifically, Rowe has been too busy trying to recharge a Harvard public relations bureaucracy that totally collapsed under the strain of Provost Jerry R. Green's unexpected departure last April.

The effort to deal with the news that Green was leaving his job to return to work as a professor was close to a meltdown, officials acknowledge. An all-time low was reached when the then-acting vice president, Jane H. Corlette, compared the turmoil in Massachusetts Hall to periods in French history when revolution toppled that country's top leaders.

With a strong bureaucracy under- neath Green and two other high-level departed officials, there was nothing to worry about, Corlette said.

Rowe, a veteran of legal work as a lawyer at NBC and a legislative counsel to Congress, is unlikely to repeat that kind of mistake. In wire-rimmed glasses and dark suits, he is smooth and controlled--and supremely careful with words

He may owe some of that calm to the turbulence he was as an undergraduate at Harvard. He was 18 years old when he moved into Pennypacker Hall in the stormy fall of 1969. Rowe now is lean and graying and settled, with a wife and two small children.

Rowe took a roundabout path through a turbulent Harvard during his years as an undergraduate. The period from 1969 to 1973 saw some of the most rapid change in Harvard's history.

The incoming vice president witnessed the Cambodian protests of the fall of 1969, the initiation of Matina S. Horner as the president of "non-merged" Radcliffe, the aftermath of the April 1969 student takeover of University Hall, and the strife-torn transition between President Nathan M. Pusey '28 and Derek C. Bok.

"Those were interesting years," Rowe recalls.

Rowe himself seems to have captured something of the spirit of the times. He says the year book photo reprinted on this page is an unauthorized picture because he and many of his class mates boycotted the yearbook photo sessions.

As an undergraduate ion Lowell and Leverett Houses, Rowe captured not just the look but the spirit of the liberal. He tutored Roxbury children through Phillips Brooks House, where he served as vice president, and was a member of the Young Democrats.