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After four decades "Mr. Harvard" has at last decided to leave his familiar position at University Hall.
When Dean of the College L. Fred Jewett '57 retires June 30, he will end a career in which he advised hundreds of undergrads, oversaw the admission of thousands and spear-headed the renovation of the College dorms.
But unlike many of his colleagues, Jewett has continued to live on-campus throughout his career, giving him a perspective on College life that is unique among administrators.
"I think [Jewett] is someone who it makes sense to call...`Mr. Harvard,'" says Vice President for Alumni Affairs and Development Fred L. Glimp, who served as Dean of the College in the mid and late sixties. "He has devoted his life to Harvard."
Glimp, then dean of admissions, first hired Lester Fred Jewett in 1964 to work as an assistant director in his office. From that time, Jewett says he has worked hard to ensure a need-blind admissions process and to increase diversity in the College community.
Last month, Jewett, 59, took the final step in his three-decade-long push to increase diversity on campus when he announced the complete randomization of the housing lottery, beginning with the class of 1999.
That decision, which has been highly controversial among undergraduates and prompted a rally of more than 200 last month, was Jewett's final major decision as Dean of the College.
Despite the opposition among students, effects of randomization may not be felt for three or four years, according to Secretary to the Faculty John B. Fox Jr. '59, whom Jewett succeeded as Dean of the College.
Jewett's lasting contribution to the College will most likely be that of making a Harvard education more accessible to students who come from families in lower income levels.
In addition, it was Jewett who managed the merger of the admissions processes for Radcliffe and Harvard, according to Fox.
Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid William R. Fitzsimmons '67, for one, credits Jewett with shaping the University's financial aid program.
"Certainly in my professional life, there is no one who has shaped it more profoundly than Fred Jewett," he says. "I think it would be hard to find anyone in the University over the past 30 plus years who has worked harder than Fred over a longer time."
The first national push for need-blind admissions came in the late 60s and early 70s, when states began to pour money into low-interest loans and grants, Jewett says.
It took several years to implement fully the current system. And today, as more and more universities are moving away from fully need-blind admissions processes because of lack of funds, Harvard continues to use a large portion of its funds to ensure that this system can remain intact.
"A place like Harvard can compensate for [federal] cut-backs [but] a lot of places do not have the resources to begin with," Jewett says. "Places like Harvard maintain [need-blind admissions] but most can't realistically maintain it."
Fox says that Jewett's attempt to keep the College diverse and make it accessible to a wide range of people, as well as his integration of the Radcliffe and Harvard admissions processes are products of Jewett's own values.
"He has lived a life that is integrated," says Fitzsimmons. "The University stands for values that are really a part of him and of the core values he believes in."
Jewett says that his job has been to bring in the highest quality of people possible, rather than being constrained by monetary concerns.
"I place high priority in terms of the quality of the people," says Jewett. "Certainly it is one of the key parts of trying to raise [financial aid]."
But Jewett's values and core beliefs are not alone in making him remarkable, his colleagues say.
"The old cliche is that someone in charge cannot ask anyone to work harder than he or she does," says Fitzsimmons, "He has created a generation or more of people who see that example and go far beyond that extra mile."
When Jewett was dean of admissions, each application would be read over roughly five times. Admissions officers would spend as many as two or three hours on a single candidate before making a final decision, Fitzsimmons adds.
"It was hammered home that every single space in the class is precious," he says.
Despite his willingness to spend the University's funds on making financial aid available to as many students as possible, Fitzsimmons jokes that Jewett is known to be extremely frugal with Harvard's resources.
"One of the things that strikes people right away about him is how closely he identifies with Harvard and [its] resources," Fitzsimmons says. "He wouldn't think of wasting a dime of Harvard and Radcliffe's resources because it really is personal to him."
"He's probably the only person I know who has ties older than mine," Fitzsimmons adds jokingly.
Jewett's dedication and caring for students go beyond policy decisions, Glimp says. Instead, many administrators say it is his ability to work and communicate well with a variety of people that has made the most significant contribution to the College community.
"I think [Jewett] did a very good job of consulting with our leadership," says former Undergraduate Council Vice President Brandon C. Gregoire '95.
But those who have worked with the white-haired dean say they believe that his administrative success may have kept him from other work, which would have perhaps been more personally satisfying and definitely more financially rewarding.
"Fred Jewett has always been I think one of the most able and thoughtful people in the whole community, and I would include faculty in that," Glimp says. "I think the hardest part of his administrative career is that it did not give him the reign for his intellectual talents as teaching would have."
Jewett had never intended to serve as a life-long administrator. He says that upon graduation from the Business School in 1960, he had hoped to pursue a career in international finance.
But when the opportunity to work as a senior adviser to first-years presented itself, Jewett says he decided to put International Telephone and Telegraph's offer on hold.
As a student at the Business School, Jewett served as a first-year proctor and earned a reputation as one of the Yard's best. After 1985, when he was named dean, Jewett was able once again to advise students and will continue to do so even after his retirement.
"If it looked like [a student] was having bad luck, he got assigned to [Jewett] as an adviser," says Glimp. "He is so thoughtful and interested in what [students] are doing... That's the way he is.
Unwilling to sever completely his ties with the College, Jewett will continue to live at his Linnaean St. address, just a short walk from the Quard.
Those who knew Jewett during his early years at the College remember his calm presence as an adviser and as an admissions officer.
Humphrey Doermann '52, who served as director of admissions from 1961 until 1966, says he remembers Jewett as being courteous and cool-headed.
"He was unflappable and he was always consistently generous, consistently decent with other people," says Doermann, who is now the president of the Busch foundation in Minneapolis.
"He managed to have good sense in all kinds of situations, the ones where emotions ran high and ones where they were at a normal level," he recalls.
And Dean of the Faculty Jeremy R. Knowles agrees that Jewett's willingness to make tough, unpopular decisions is a tribute to his character.
"Dean Jewett's reign has been a more-or-less continUous highlight," says Knowles. "He has given the College his fine judgment, his dedication and his supportive thoughtfulness."
The Wonder Years
Jewett graduated magna cum laude from the College as a government concentrator in 1957. Prior to Harvard, Jewett attended high school in Taunton, Mass., where he acquired the nickname "April Fool."
Jewett earned the moniker from his classmates because he was born on April 1, according to John S. Tripp, a childhood friend who is now the associate headmaster of Taunton High School.
"He was a great kid. He was a kid who naturally was a brain, and we looked up to him for that," says Tripp, who went to high school and junior high with Jewett. "I've always considered Fred a genius."
Jewett enjoyed playing pick-up games of football and basketball, volunteered in the cafeteria and was on the traffic squad, according to Tripp, who with Jewett helped direct traffic in the high school.
"He mixed well, he had friends all over," Tripp remembers. "Sometimes the kids you call jocks or athletes didn't mix with the geniuses, but Fred mixed well on both sides."
Jewett leaves behind not only a more diverse campus, but also the legacy of his leadership in the renovation of the College Houses, the Yard, Memorial Hall and the Loker Commons, which will leave undergraduates a more pleasant physical plant.
Ironically, years ago the "scholarship" students dined in Memorial Hall, while the wealthy ate at their respective final clubs.
Almost a century later, students will be dining in Memorial Hall once again, but this time rich and poor--male and female--will dine together.
"April Fool" has played a large part in that, according to his colleagues, who say they will remember him for his contribution to increased diversity and equality.
However they remember him, Jewett says he has nothing but fond memories of his tenure at Harvard.
Sarah J. Schaffer contributed to the reporting of this article.
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