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Board of Overseers Elects New President

By Parker R. Conrad, Contributing Writer

Industrial CEO Joan M. Hutchins '61 was elected president of Harvard's Board of Overseers on Wednesday. She will assume her new position after Commencement.

The Board of Overseers, which is comprised of alumni from all of Harvard's schools, serves as an advisory committee to Harvard College and the Corporation, the University's governing body.

Overseers are elected to a 6-year terms by members of the Harvard Alumni Association, and the president of the board is elected annually by her fellow Overseers.

Overseers typically "visit" Harvard in committees charged with reviewing specific programs or aspects of Harvard's schools.

President Neil L. Rudenstine spoke highly of Hutchins in a press release yesterday.

"Joan Hutchins is an exceptionally talented executive and a deeply committed alumna who has been a broad-gauged and energetic leader on the Board of Overseers since 1994," he said.

Overseers typically hold full-time jobs in addition to their responsibilities to the College. According to Sheila J. Kuehl, a Harvard Law School graduate and member of the board of overseers, this range of experience is precisely what makes their advice to the University relevant.

"The overseers have the most extraordinary breadth of professional experience of any group of people I've ever met in my life...Ultimately, we have no authority other than our own experience and persuasion," Kuehl said.

After receiving her A.B. in mathematics from Radcliffe, Hutchins worked as a management consultant before joining Compotite Corp., a building-materials manufacturing firm based in Los Angeles, as Vice-President for development.

Hutchins is now president and CEO of Compotite, and is also president of MBH Farms Inc., in New York's Hudson Valley.

Hutchins also has extensive experience with Harvard's alumni network--in addition to her term as Overseer, she has served on the Harvard Alumni Association's board of directors, and was president of the Harvard-Radcliffe Club of Long Island.

Hutchins, who could not be reached for comment, said in the press release that she was delighted with her new position.

"It is a special privilege to lead the Board at this time of increased intellectual ferment at Harvard. New facilities in both the humanities and the sciences, substantially increased collaboration across schools and departments, and pervasive changes in technology are spurring the imaginations of our faculty and students as never before," she said.

Still, it doesn't appear that the new president will bring anything radically different to the table.

Several board members suggested that the position of president was less a position invested with the authority to set an agenda, and more an office charged with ensuring the board got its tasks done.

"The president is charged with helping to organize the work of the board.... She is the lynchpin in making sure that work goes forward," Kuehl said.

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