They attended the same school, but travelled in different academic circles. They both lived along the same river, but travelled with different social crowds. And they graduated with the same class, but travelled down different career paths.
Indeed, when Charles P. Slichter '45 and Robert G. Stone Jr. '45 graduated with the class of 1945, they would have seemed like just about the most different pair of fellows at Harvard College.
Fifty years can change a lot. In fact, Slichter and Stone return to Cambridge this week as a pair of very similar fellows--Fellows of Harvard College, that is.
Slichter and Stone have each spent more than two decades--25 years for Slichter, 20 for Stone--serving on the Corporation, the University's highest governing board.
On the surface, Slichter, a professor of physics at the University of Illinois, couldn't appear more different from Stone, the chair of the Kirby Corporation.
But they are drawn together by one important element: their service to Harvard University.
Today, as the two most senior members of the seven-member Corporation (Stone will assume Slichter's role as the Senior Fellow when Slichter leaves the Corporation later this month) this unlikely couple has something else in common: each wields immense influence over the governance of Harvard.
"They are wounderful people, and actually more similar than one might think it terms of the career they've had," says President Neil L. Rudenstine, who was hired by a nine-person committee which was chaired by Slichter and include Stone.
"There are actually quite similar people in the sense that are both extraordinarily sympathetic human beings," says Rudenstine, who as president chairs all meetings of the Corporation.
"And while they can both be analytic, their fundamental mode of operation has more to do with strong values, strong human emotions and a powerful, intuitive sense of what's right and wrong, and so they're likely to approach a problem in a very similar way even though they're from totally different backgrounds."
"I think if you sat down and talked with them for an hour, you'd find that they're very different people obviously, but if you kept pushing and listened hard to the way they talk and the things they think and talk about, you'd find a lot of similarities," the president concludes.
Physicist and Kingmaker
When two Fellows of Harvard College retired in 1969, the University wanted to replace them with members from academic backgrounds. An actively teaching professor had not been a member of the Corporation in nearly a century. And in the wake of the student takeover of University Hall the previous spring, many top Harvard officials wanted a faculty presence on the University's highest governing board.
On January 13, 1970, they named two. The first was Yale history professor John M. Blum '43, a professor of physics in the Center for Advanced Study at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Slichter was an ideal choice for the job, officials say. He was a pure-bred legacy whose father Sumner served as a professor of economics at Harvard.