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How the Deal Was Done

The story of six men and women who put their time, reputations and $350 million on the line to hammer out the agreement that reshaped a college.

By Adam A. Sofen, Crimson Staff Writers

Mary Maples Dunn was almost late.

Hanging up from a conference call, the woman about to be named the Radcliffe Institute's first dean rushed across the lawn from her Schlesinger Library office to Fay House, Radcliffe's porticoed headquarters. She arrived to find the upstairs conference room already full.

They were all there--the men and women who had spent the last two years negotiating the merger between Harvard and Radcliffe, a merger they would announce to the public an hour later.

Neil L. Rudenstine was there. Over the last 24 months the president of Harvard had spent hours talking on the phone and exchanging hand-written notes with Nancy-Beth G. Sheerr '71, chairman of the Radcliffe Board of Trustees. In the end, the deal on the table was theirs.

Provost Harvey V. Fineberg '67, who carried the deal to completion, and Dean of the Faculty Jeremy R. Knowles, who worked with Dunn to iron out one of the deal's most prickly issues, were also there. Stalwart Radcliffe trustee Susan S. Wallach '68 sent her greetings from New York.

Radcliffe President Linda S. Wilson was there too. She was about to announce her own long-awaited resignation as part of a deal brokered almost entirely by Sheerr.

Dunn took her seat, sandwiched between Knowles and Fineberg. At last the murmurs about the "historic moment" and "the beginning of a new era" quieted down. With a stroke of a pen, Sheerr and Rudenstine signed a seven-page statement of intent to merge. And in the burst of applause that followed, the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, so long in the making, was born.

That Institute will merge Radcliffe's vaunted research centers with $150 million of Harvard capital. Female undergraduates will belong solely to Harvard College forever.

A merger of Harvard and Radcliffe has been called inevitable almost as long as there has been a Radcliffe. But it didn't have to turn out this way. This harmonious moment on April 20 capped two years of hard work and frustrating wrangling over a deal that several times almost slipped away.

This is a story compiled from the recollections of nine individuals who were involved in the process at various points, some of whom preferred to remain anonymous.

It is the story of the nation's oldest and wealthiest University, the 120-year-old women's college down the street and the deal that brought them together.

In the Beginning

Under Harvard and Radcliffe's last major agreement, unveiled in 1977, Radcliffe remained fiscally and administratively independent from Harvard, even as men and women lived and worked together.

But since that time most female undergraduates had come to see themselves as Harvard women and felt little inclination to attend Radcliffe programs Meanwhile women's issues sometimes fell between the cracks--Harvard assumed Radcliffe would take care of them, but Radcliffe lacked the money or the clout to pursue real change.

But one negotiator says that despite the growing need for a revision of the arrangement, longstanding distrust between the two schools kept them apart. As early as the 1930s, President A. Lawrence Lowell, Class of 1877, had set out to sever ties between Harvard and Radcliffe. Alumnae learned even then to be suspicious of big bad Harvard.

"There wasn't much goodwill on either side," one official says.

Enter Sheerr. Even as an undergraduate she was devoted to the Radcliffe cause--as president of the Radcliffe Union of Students (RUS), she advised an alumnae committee examining a proposed revision of the Harvard and Radcliffe's relationship in 1970. She began serving on Radcliffe's Board of Trustees in 1985 and was elected its chairman in 1990.

Sheerr is deliberate and unswerving--according to Rudenstine, "rock-like"--once her mind is made up. With an office in Fay House and no other job to distract her from her volunteer position, she has an unusual level of oversight into the day-to-day operations of Radcliffe.

As Radcliffe began a process of long-term planning, Rudenstine and Sheerr were joined by Wilson for a friendly chat in the summer of 1997. In the Morning Room of ivy-covered Loeb House, the home of the Harvard Corporation, the three spoke in the most general sense about the intertwined past of the two schools and their potential for joining. Even then they laid out the idea of a Radcliffe Institute as their ultimate vision for the future.

"The response was immediate," Sheerr says. "The overall conception of vision was a meeting of the minds."

It was the first of a number of informal conversations between Rudenstine and Sheerr that took place that summer.

Rudenstine is known among administrators as a quiet consensus-builder, the kind of man people just trust. The two quickly established a bond.

"They really hit it off," says one source. "They're both straight-shooters."

But while Sheerr and Rudenstine were talking big picture, Sheerr already had her Board of Trustees looking at specifics. "There wasn't any attempt to soft-pedal the discussion," says then-Board member Stanley Miller '52.

Miller says the board was acutely aware that Radcliffe was facing a financial crunch. Despite a fundraising campaign that was chugging into its seventh year, Radcliffe was burning money on unusually high administrative costs. From the beginning, the board realized it might have to sever official ties with undergraduates. Only then could it sell Radcliffe's buildings and land to Harvard--worth a considerable sum in the overheated Cambridge market.

"If you could work out a deal with Harvard, you could turn things around," Miller says.

The Women At the Top

While the process began with a conversation between Sheerr, Wilson and Rudenstine, the talking group was soon pared to two.

"It began small, Rudenstine says. "At each step of the way, as we became sure that this was the way we wanted to go, more people became involved."

But after the first Loeb House meeting, Wilson largely dropped out of the negotiations. While sources say she communicated frequently with the trustees, Wilson's contact with Harvard was virtually non-existent.

Observers of the Wilson presidency say they are not surprised that Sheerr wielded the power.

Wilson is cautious beyond measure, as guarded with the press as she is with all but her closest friends. She answers pointed questions with a mixture of stock phrases and abstractions. Wilson recently described her 10-year-long presidency at a full Faculty meeting as "a multidimensional inclined plane."

"[Wilson's] idea of getting along is to be quiet and right," says one source close to the Radcliffe adminis- tration.

When asked, Sheerr pauses, considers and thencarefully replies that she and Wilson are friends.Their bond is "often warm and intense," she goeson to say.

Sheerr jokes that in the past months the twohad become "hard-wired," often speaking to oneanother more frequently than to their ownfamilies.

But though Sheerr says they work well together,Radcliffe observers say the pair's relationshiphas become increasingly strained over the past twoyears. At times, sources say, they were barelyspeaking.

Observers say that Sheerr adopted a take-chargeattitude at Radcliffe--and the president didlittle to stop her. The source close to theRadcliffe administration recalls that Sheerr wouldreview Wilson's publicly distributed schedule toensure that the president was keeping busy.

"If [Wilson] had a doctor's appointment or hadto get her hair cut, she would make something upso Mrs. Sheerr wouldn't question her commitment toRadcliffe," the source says.

According to Wilson, the two would play"devil's advocate" to one another. Today she callsSheerr a "devoted volunteer leader."

Yet over the years, observers say, Wilson beganto chafe under Sheerr's intense direction. In thespring of 1997, Wilson gave a speech in which sheimplied that Radcliffe might work with Harvard butonly on Radcliffe's terms. She did not consultSheerr before giving the speech, which earned hera standing ovation from the largely alumnaeaudience. The chairman was infuriated.

"I think that was the beginning of the end,"the source says.

Sources close to both Harvard and Radcliffe sayWilson and Sheerr's falling out became publicknowledge in the fall of 1997. Harvard negotiatorshad realized that Sheerr was in charge.

Scaling it Down

A Harvard official says the University soonbecame impatient with the slow pace of talks.Rudenstine insisted Harvard would take a hands-offrole-allowing Radcliffe to finish a "strategicplanning process" on its own before moving on tomore in-depth, joint talks.

Finally in March, about eight months after thefirst informal talks began, Sheerr's team produceda discussion paper for consideration.

Miller says he had counseled Sheerr, who isalso a good friend, to make just such a concretestep.

"My advice was...you go to PresidentRudenstine, and you make a proposal," he says.

Harvard saw the proposal as far too ambitious:It called for Radcliffe to maintain a large rolein undergraduate education and to have 15 or morepermanent faculty members. The new Institute wouldhave an annual budget of about $50 million, morediscretionary money than all but the largest ofthe University's faculties--or tubs, as they'reknown in Harvard-speak.

"They wanted big numbers and certain symbolicthings to show they weren't being unfaithful totheir alumnae," a Harvard official says."[Harvard's attitude] was that the numbers shouldbe based on actual programs and plans."

A month later, a new urgency would enter theprocess as the Boston Globe announced for thefirst time that the schools were in secret talksand that Radcliffe was on the verge ofrelinquishing its "college" title.

"The impact was monumental," says RadcliffeMedia Relations Officer Michael A. Armini. "Itshaped the coverage of Radcliffe for at least sixmonths."

Harvard publicly told an eager press whatRudenstine had been saying in private for months:Radcliffe must first figure out its own directionbefore a merger could be discussed. Radcliffechose to say virtually nothing at all.

By May, sources say Sheerr had sensed Harvard'sreluctance and produced a new and more realisticplan. Rudenstine considered it a leap forward,leading to an informal meeting between members ofHarvard's Corporation and Radcliffe's Board ofTrustees in June.

Discussions began in earnest in August, and bySeptember 1998, many thought a deal imminent. Butit would still be seven months before the signingin Fay House.

Nagging Questions

When the academic year began in September, thetwo sides had made significant progress on severalkey issues.

The financing of the Institute was agreed uponearly. Harvard understood it would have tocontribute a large sum--the final tally was $150million--to launch the Institute properly.

More problematic was the Institute's missionstatement. Negotiators had met repeatedly formonths to sketch a one-paragraph, two-sentencemission statement for the new Radcliffe Institute.

"People argued about prepositions," one sourcesays.

The crucial question was whether the Institutewould confine itself to women's and gender studiesor would examine a wide range of disciplines, withan important "focus" on women. Radcliffe wanted"women, gender and society" (a favoriteWilson-ism) to be included in the statement'sfirst sentence. Harvard insisted on emphasizing"advanced work in the academic disciplines,professions, or creative arts" first.

Harvard thought underscoring any one subject,like women's studies, so heavily would be amistake.

"[They thought] if you put $300 million behindphysics or sociology, that would unbalance [theCollege]," says one high-level source.

The more general wording won out in the finalagreement.

The two also squabbled on faculty appointments,Radcliffe arguing for a tenured faculty at theInstitute while Harvard pushed for temporaryscholars.

The issue was handed off to Knowles and Dunn.

The pair met repeatedly in Knowles' office onthe second floor of University Hall and for lunchat restaurants like Upstairs at the Pudding andSandrine's. They communicated by telephone andthrough endless faxes.

Knowles talks about Dunn with affection--a"marvelously warm and wise person," he calls her.They speak of each like good friends--and perhapsthey are. Knowles' wife Jane has served asRadcliffe College archivist in the SchlesingerLibrary for 20 years and has worked alongside Dunnsince she came to Radcliffe as director of theSchlesinger in 1995.

A former president of Smith College, Dunn isuniversally respected as someone who's been there.At 67, though, most thought the Schlesinger wouldbe the last stop in her career. She suffered asevere heart attack last Halloween, and hercolleagues feared she would need months to recoverfrom her triple-bypass surgery. Yet Dunn was backin a matter of weeks.

But the two dispatched the issue independentlyand efficiently. The new Institute would only havevisiting scholars appointed for up to five years.The two-page document Knowles and Dunn submittedended up an appendix to the final deal.

Stuck in Neutral

But despite the progress made by Knowles, Dunnand others, the negotiations stalled seriously inthe fall of 1998. The sticking points were morenumerous than the points of agreement.

Harvard and Radcliffe could not agree on whatrole, if any, Radcliffe should play inundergraduate life. They could not agree on whatproperty the new Radcliffe Institute shouldoccupy--after all, the College's admissions officeand one of its principal performance spaces sitsquarely in Radcliffe Yard.

They could not agree on fundraising--who couldproperly solicit whom. Or on governance issues,like whether the current RadcliffeBoard--including Sheerr--should have a formal rolein shaping the fledgling Institute.

Radcliffe tripped on Title IX law as well. SomeRadcliffe leaders had envisioned that parts of theInstitute might be open to women fellowsonly--until they were informed that that would beillegal. Laws prohibiting sex discrimination ineducation make an exception for traditionallyall-women undergraduate institutions, likeRadcliffe College, but not post-graduate programs,like the Radcliffe Institute.

Worst of all, says one source, Sheerr blunderedby showing what Rudenstine considered a private,incomplete document to members of her board inSeptember.

"It caused distrust to break out," one officialsays. "It made a lot [of Harvard negotiators]think there was too much chaos."

"You can't conduct detailed negotiationsbetween two people sending handwritten notes backand forth," the official adds.

Talks halted for at least a month.

A Dec. 6, 1998 meeting between members of theboard and the corporation proved unsatisfying.Sources say both sides were too polite, too vagueto make progress. Another evasive meeting inFebruary 1999 was even more discouraging, a sourcesays.

Part of the problem was that Rudenstine hadlong insisted that discussions remain as informalas possible, a high-level source says. He reasonedthat once Harvard publicly acknowledged that itwas in talks with Radcliffe, any breakdown wouldbe seen as Harvard bullying its weak sister onceagain. But without a larger negotiating team, thepresident was getting exhausted, squandering hisprecious time on minutiae.

In short, the source says, Rudenstine andSheerr had gone as far as they could together.They needed help.

To the Rescue

Enter Harvey Fineberg and Susan Wallach, theprovost and the trustee.

Wallach was a newcomer to the Radcliffe Boardof Trustees, having joined in June of 1997. She isa successful New York divorce attorney whospecializes in negotiating the terms ofpre-nuptial agreements--an irony not lost onobservers. Wallach's easygoing personality won herquick respect from both sides.

"She talks fast, moves fast--a dynamo kind ofperson...She thought it was going too slowly andso she inserted herself," says one Radcliffeofficial.

Negotiation lore has it that Wallach andFineberg--who barely knew each otherbeforehand--ran into one another coincidentally atthe American Museum of Natural History in NewYork. Away from the scrutiny of Cambridge, the twofound they had a powerful common interest:speeding up the discussions.

Fineberg had already been tapped to relieveRudenstine from the crush of details. More thananyone at Harvard, the practical and levelheadedprovost is intended to be the president'sright-hand man. As Rudenstine's point-person oninterfaculty collaboration, a Harvard-Radcliffemerger was an obvious problem for him to handle.

The pressure was on as Fineberg and Wallach gotto work in early 1999. A steady drip ofadministrative departures at Radcliffe hadembarrassed the administration, which claimed theturnover was just normal institutional attrition.

Then there was the Wilson factor. By alongstanding arrangement, Wilson and the board hadagreed she would depart at the end of theRadcliffe capital campaign in 2000, says a sourceclose to the Radcliffe administration.

But another source says that earlier this year,Radcliffe officials began to warn that Wilsonmight resign-deal or no deal. Radcliffe could notafford to announce its president's departure insuch an overheated atmosphere, and they toldHarvard they needed a solution soon.

"That put pressure on the whole process...butit didn't work to [Radcliffe's] advantage," theofficial says.

Yet Fineberg and Wallach attacked theoutstanding issues with a vengeance.

"They went at it nonstop," one source says. "Ithink [Wallach] felt she was doing it day andnight for a few weeks."

New snags appeared. Radcliffe had long beenreluctant to show Harvard its financial books.

As a final deal looked more and more likely,Harvard's lawyers demanded the right to conductdue diligence, the routine examination of financesin mergers.

Anne Taylor, Harvard's general counsel, was atlast allowed a quick glance at Radcliffe's booksin early April, only days before a final deal wasinked, one source says.

In the final two months, property was the issuethat loomed the largest. Harvard assumed that theRadcliffe Quad would be a non-issue, that therewould be no objections to continuing undergraduatehousing in Cabot, Currier and Pforzheimer Houses.

But at one point, at least, in the finalstretch, Radcliffe floated the idea of taking overCabot House's Eliot and Bertram Halls (whichcurrently house 82 students) for future Instituteuse. After further discussion, they agreed theQuad would become Harvard College property afterall.

More complicated were Byerly and Agassiz Halls,home to the College's admissions office and anundergraduate performance space, respectively.

Radcliffe insisted that the Institute neededspace to grow, and Radcliffe Yard was the properplace for expansion. Rudenstine himself returnedto the table to fashion a compromise, one sourcesays. The Institute will have the right to occupyByerly after five years and Agassiz after seven,while the College must make a "good faith" effortto find an alternate site for an admissions officeand theater.

Making the Deal

Finally, on April 12, after two months ofvirtually unceasing exchanges and weekendmeetings, all the pieces were in place. As Sheerrshed tears of satisfaction, the Radcliffe Board ofTrustees voted to accept the deal.

"Everyone spoke. It was a powerful feeling,"Sheerr says, her eyes brimming with tears again atthe memory. "It was the emotion of saying we didit. We brought this to fruition."

There were others who helped bring the twosides to the deal. Sources say Radcliffe TrusteesJill T. Cheng '67, Pendred E. Noyce '77 and JaneA. Silverman '67 were particularly important.Outgoing president of the Harvard Board ofOverseers Charlotte P. Armstrong '49 worked withboth sides to, in her own words, "jumpstart" thetalks this past winter.

But those interviewed agree that the lion'sshare of credit for the deal belongs to Sheerr,who originated the negotiations, who refused tolet the issue die away, who essentially wrote herown job out of existence.

After all, decades of Radcliffe leaders beforeher had failed to accomplish what even then seemedan inevitable step.

"She's Captain Courageous," Dunn says. "It tooka lot of courage for the Radcliffe board to takesuch a huge step."

And on April 20, in an upstairs conference roomin Fay House, she initialed the document thatended the two-year ordeal. It was over at last,and they all shook hands.

And then they filed downstairs to break thenews to the world.Sarah E. HenricksonLauren P. MalanJason Y. ChoAllison B. LevesqueRosalind S. HeldermanThe Bargaining Table

When asked, Sheerr pauses, considers and thencarefully replies that she and Wilson are friends.Their bond is "often warm and intense," she goeson to say.

Sheerr jokes that in the past months the twohad become "hard-wired," often speaking to oneanother more frequently than to their ownfamilies.

But though Sheerr says they work well together,Radcliffe observers say the pair's relationshiphas become increasingly strained over the past twoyears. At times, sources say, they were barelyspeaking.

Observers say that Sheerr adopted a take-chargeattitude at Radcliffe--and the president didlittle to stop her. The source close to theRadcliffe administration recalls that Sheerr wouldreview Wilson's publicly distributed schedule toensure that the president was keeping busy.

"If [Wilson] had a doctor's appointment or hadto get her hair cut, she would make something upso Mrs. Sheerr wouldn't question her commitment toRadcliffe," the source says.

According to Wilson, the two would play"devil's advocate" to one another. Today she callsSheerr a "devoted volunteer leader."

Yet over the years, observers say, Wilson beganto chafe under Sheerr's intense direction. In thespring of 1997, Wilson gave a speech in which sheimplied that Radcliffe might work with Harvard butonly on Radcliffe's terms. She did not consultSheerr before giving the speech, which earned hera standing ovation from the largely alumnaeaudience. The chairman was infuriated.

"I think that was the beginning of the end,"the source says.

Sources close to both Harvard and Radcliffe sayWilson and Sheerr's falling out became publicknowledge in the fall of 1997. Harvard negotiatorshad realized that Sheerr was in charge.

Scaling it Down

A Harvard official says the University soonbecame impatient with the slow pace of talks.Rudenstine insisted Harvard would take a hands-offrole-allowing Radcliffe to finish a "strategicplanning process" on its own before moving on tomore in-depth, joint talks.

Finally in March, about eight months after thefirst informal talks began, Sheerr's team produceda discussion paper for consideration.

Miller says he had counseled Sheerr, who isalso a good friend, to make just such a concretestep.

"My advice was...you go to PresidentRudenstine, and you make a proposal," he says.

Harvard saw the proposal as far too ambitious:It called for Radcliffe to maintain a large rolein undergraduate education and to have 15 or morepermanent faculty members. The new Institute wouldhave an annual budget of about $50 million, morediscretionary money than all but the largest ofthe University's faculties--or tubs, as they'reknown in Harvard-speak.

"They wanted big numbers and certain symbolicthings to show they weren't being unfaithful totheir alumnae," a Harvard official says."[Harvard's attitude] was that the numbers shouldbe based on actual programs and plans."

A month later, a new urgency would enter theprocess as the Boston Globe announced for thefirst time that the schools were in secret talksand that Radcliffe was on the verge ofrelinquishing its "college" title.

"The impact was monumental," says RadcliffeMedia Relations Officer Michael A. Armini. "Itshaped the coverage of Radcliffe for at least sixmonths."

Harvard publicly told an eager press whatRudenstine had been saying in private for months:Radcliffe must first figure out its own directionbefore a merger could be discussed. Radcliffechose to say virtually nothing at all.

By May, sources say Sheerr had sensed Harvard'sreluctance and produced a new and more realisticplan. Rudenstine considered it a leap forward,leading to an informal meeting between members ofHarvard's Corporation and Radcliffe's Board ofTrustees in June.

Discussions began in earnest in August, and bySeptember 1998, many thought a deal imminent. Butit would still be seven months before the signingin Fay House.

Nagging Questions

When the academic year began in September, thetwo sides had made significant progress on severalkey issues.

The financing of the Institute was agreed uponearly. Harvard understood it would have tocontribute a large sum--the final tally was $150million--to launch the Institute properly.

More problematic was the Institute's missionstatement. Negotiators had met repeatedly formonths to sketch a one-paragraph, two-sentencemission statement for the new Radcliffe Institute.

"People argued about prepositions," one sourcesays.

The crucial question was whether the Institutewould confine itself to women's and gender studiesor would examine a wide range of disciplines, withan important "focus" on women. Radcliffe wanted"women, gender and society" (a favoriteWilson-ism) to be included in the statement'sfirst sentence. Harvard insisted on emphasizing"advanced work in the academic disciplines,professions, or creative arts" first.

Harvard thought underscoring any one subject,like women's studies, so heavily would be amistake.

"[They thought] if you put $300 million behindphysics or sociology, that would unbalance [theCollege]," says one high-level source.

The more general wording won out in the finalagreement.

The two also squabbled on faculty appointments,Radcliffe arguing for a tenured faculty at theInstitute while Harvard pushed for temporaryscholars.

The issue was handed off to Knowles and Dunn.

The pair met repeatedly in Knowles' office onthe second floor of University Hall and for lunchat restaurants like Upstairs at the Pudding andSandrine's. They communicated by telephone andthrough endless faxes.

Knowles talks about Dunn with affection--a"marvelously warm and wise person," he calls her.They speak of each like good friends--and perhapsthey are. Knowles' wife Jane has served asRadcliffe College archivist in the SchlesingerLibrary for 20 years and has worked alongside Dunnsince she came to Radcliffe as director of theSchlesinger in 1995.

A former president of Smith College, Dunn isuniversally respected as someone who's been there.At 67, though, most thought the Schlesinger wouldbe the last stop in her career. She suffered asevere heart attack last Halloween, and hercolleagues feared she would need months to recoverfrom her triple-bypass surgery. Yet Dunn was backin a matter of weeks.

But the two dispatched the issue independentlyand efficiently. The new Institute would only havevisiting scholars appointed for up to five years.The two-page document Knowles and Dunn submittedended up an appendix to the final deal.

Stuck in Neutral

But despite the progress made by Knowles, Dunnand others, the negotiations stalled seriously inthe fall of 1998. The sticking points were morenumerous than the points of agreement.

Harvard and Radcliffe could not agree on whatrole, if any, Radcliffe should play inundergraduate life. They could not agree on whatproperty the new Radcliffe Institute shouldoccupy--after all, the College's admissions officeand one of its principal performance spaces sitsquarely in Radcliffe Yard.

They could not agree on fundraising--who couldproperly solicit whom. Or on governance issues,like whether the current RadcliffeBoard--including Sheerr--should have a formal rolein shaping the fledgling Institute.

Radcliffe tripped on Title IX law as well. SomeRadcliffe leaders had envisioned that parts of theInstitute might be open to women fellowsonly--until they were informed that that would beillegal. Laws prohibiting sex discrimination ineducation make an exception for traditionallyall-women undergraduate institutions, likeRadcliffe College, but not post-graduate programs,like the Radcliffe Institute.

Worst of all, says one source, Sheerr blunderedby showing what Rudenstine considered a private,incomplete document to members of her board inSeptember.

"It caused distrust to break out," one officialsays. "It made a lot [of Harvard negotiators]think there was too much chaos."

"You can't conduct detailed negotiationsbetween two people sending handwritten notes backand forth," the official adds.

Talks halted for at least a month.

A Dec. 6, 1998 meeting between members of theboard and the corporation proved unsatisfying.Sources say both sides were too polite, too vagueto make progress. Another evasive meeting inFebruary 1999 was even more discouraging, a sourcesays.

Part of the problem was that Rudenstine hadlong insisted that discussions remain as informalas possible, a high-level source says. He reasonedthat once Harvard publicly acknowledged that itwas in talks with Radcliffe, any breakdown wouldbe seen as Harvard bullying its weak sister onceagain. But without a larger negotiating team, thepresident was getting exhausted, squandering hisprecious time on minutiae.

In short, the source says, Rudenstine andSheerr had gone as far as they could together.They needed help.

To the Rescue

Enter Harvey Fineberg and Susan Wallach, theprovost and the trustee.

Wallach was a newcomer to the Radcliffe Boardof Trustees, having joined in June of 1997. She isa successful New York divorce attorney whospecializes in negotiating the terms ofpre-nuptial agreements--an irony not lost onobservers. Wallach's easygoing personality won herquick respect from both sides.

"She talks fast, moves fast--a dynamo kind ofperson...She thought it was going too slowly andso she inserted herself," says one Radcliffeofficial.

Negotiation lore has it that Wallach andFineberg--who barely knew each otherbeforehand--ran into one another coincidentally atthe American Museum of Natural History in NewYork. Away from the scrutiny of Cambridge, the twofound they had a powerful common interest:speeding up the discussions.

Fineberg had already been tapped to relieveRudenstine from the crush of details. More thananyone at Harvard, the practical and levelheadedprovost is intended to be the president'sright-hand man. As Rudenstine's point-person oninterfaculty collaboration, a Harvard-Radcliffemerger was an obvious problem for him to handle.

The pressure was on as Fineberg and Wallach gotto work in early 1999. A steady drip ofadministrative departures at Radcliffe hadembarrassed the administration, which claimed theturnover was just normal institutional attrition.

Then there was the Wilson factor. By alongstanding arrangement, Wilson and the board hadagreed she would depart at the end of theRadcliffe capital campaign in 2000, says a sourceclose to the Radcliffe administration.

But another source says that earlier this year,Radcliffe officials began to warn that Wilsonmight resign-deal or no deal. Radcliffe could notafford to announce its president's departure insuch an overheated atmosphere, and they toldHarvard they needed a solution soon.

"That put pressure on the whole process...butit didn't work to [Radcliffe's] advantage," theofficial says.

Yet Fineberg and Wallach attacked theoutstanding issues with a vengeance.

"They went at it nonstop," one source says. "Ithink [Wallach] felt she was doing it day andnight for a few weeks."

New snags appeared. Radcliffe had long beenreluctant to show Harvard its financial books.

As a final deal looked more and more likely,Harvard's lawyers demanded the right to conductdue diligence, the routine examination of financesin mergers.

Anne Taylor, Harvard's general counsel, was atlast allowed a quick glance at Radcliffe's booksin early April, only days before a final deal wasinked, one source says.

In the final two months, property was the issuethat loomed the largest. Harvard assumed that theRadcliffe Quad would be a non-issue, that therewould be no objections to continuing undergraduatehousing in Cabot, Currier and Pforzheimer Houses.

But at one point, at least, in the finalstretch, Radcliffe floated the idea of taking overCabot House's Eliot and Bertram Halls (whichcurrently house 82 students) for future Instituteuse. After further discussion, they agreed theQuad would become Harvard College property afterall.

More complicated were Byerly and Agassiz Halls,home to the College's admissions office and anundergraduate performance space, respectively.

Radcliffe insisted that the Institute neededspace to grow, and Radcliffe Yard was the properplace for expansion. Rudenstine himself returnedto the table to fashion a compromise, one sourcesays. The Institute will have the right to occupyByerly after five years and Agassiz after seven,while the College must make a "good faith" effortto find an alternate site for an admissions officeand theater.

Making the Deal

Finally, on April 12, after two months ofvirtually unceasing exchanges and weekendmeetings, all the pieces were in place. As Sheerrshed tears of satisfaction, the Radcliffe Board ofTrustees voted to accept the deal.

"Everyone spoke. It was a powerful feeling,"Sheerr says, her eyes brimming with tears again atthe memory. "It was the emotion of saying we didit. We brought this to fruition."

There were others who helped bring the twosides to the deal. Sources say Radcliffe TrusteesJill T. Cheng '67, Pendred E. Noyce '77 and JaneA. Silverman '67 were particularly important.Outgoing president of the Harvard Board ofOverseers Charlotte P. Armstrong '49 worked withboth sides to, in her own words, "jumpstart" thetalks this past winter.

But those interviewed agree that the lion'sshare of credit for the deal belongs to Sheerr,who originated the negotiations, who refused tolet the issue die away, who essentially wrote herown job out of existence.

After all, decades of Radcliffe leaders beforeher had failed to accomplish what even then seemedan inevitable step.

"She's Captain Courageous," Dunn says. "It tooka lot of courage for the Radcliffe board to takesuch a huge step."

And on April 20, in an upstairs conference roomin Fay House, she initialed the document thatended the two-year ordeal. It was over at last,and they all shook hands.

And then they filed downstairs to break thenews to the world.Sarah E. HenricksonLauren P. MalanJason Y. ChoAllison B. LevesqueRosalind S. HeldermanThe Bargaining Table

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