McGeorge Bundy, former dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) and an adviser to John F. Kennedy '40, died yesterday at Massachusetts General Hospital. He was 77.
"He was a splendid dean and we were very sorry to have him leave the world of academia to devote his full time to government," former Harvard president Nathan M. Pusey '28 said last night. "Wherever he went, he was going to be a force."
When Bundy became dean of the Faculty in 1953, his selection was considered a surprise by most everyone. At 34, Bundy was the youngest person ever to serve as dean of FAS, a position that was considered the second most powerful in the University at the time.
Furthermore, the new boss for all of Harvard's tenured faculty did not even have tenure himself--Bundy was an associate professor of government at the time of his appointment.
But despite his youth, Bundy did not disappoint during his eight-year tenure as dean. He was responsible for creating the advanced-standing program, and Harvard officials credit him for successfully encouraging more students to pursue honors.
The dean also successfully managed the Faculty's finances, finishing his tenure with a net surplus. The budgetary success did not come without its costs, however: Bundy was the first dean to raise tuition more than once within a four-year period, setting a precedent of frequent tuition hikes that remains to this day.
Bundy left Harvard in 1961 to become a national security aide in the administration of grade school classmate Kennedy. He would be a key player during the Bay of Pigs invasion and the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Bundy also worked as president of the Ford Foundation and as chair of the Carnegie Corporation Committee on
The most frequent adjective used to describe the late dean is brilliant. He was so versatile intellectually that he graduated from Yale in 1940 with highest honors in mathematics, became a professor of government at Harvard before his 36th birthday and finished his career as a history professor at New York University.
"I had heard about him as a young man. He was one of the brightest faculty members ever produced around here," said Dean of Students Archie C. Epps III. "You felt you always had to reach intellectually to keep up with him."
Current Dean of the FAS Jeremy R. Knowles said that Bundy's influence on the Faculty endures.
"McGeorge Bundy was a marvelous Dean of the Faculty: brilliant, persuasive and omniscient," Knowles said.
Legends of Bundy's genius abound.
In his book The Best and the Brightest, David L. Halberstam '55 tells a story of Bundy's time at The Grotton School. Bundy had not prepared a speech he was supposed to deliver that day, so he stood in front of the class with a blank piece of paper in his hand and gave an impromptu oration that would be remembered years later for its brilliance.
"He did have an astonishing quickness of mind," said Secretary of the FAS John B. Fox Jr. '59, an undergraduate during Bundy's tenure. "He could master written and tabular material astonishingly well."
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