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She helped bring about the end of the Cold War, served as the youngest provost in Stanford's history and is now the top foreign policy advisor for Governor George W. Bush. She has a Bahamian-flagged supertanker named after her, sits on the board of investment giant Charles Schwab and knows more about sports than most men.
Now, Condoleezza "Condi" Rice wants to be National Security Advisor, the Commissioner of the National Football League or, eventually, both. But there's one thing she doesn't want to be--president of Harvard.
"Harvard's a fine institution, but I don't want to be a university president," she told The Crimson at the first presidential debate, which was held last Tuesday at the Boston campus of the University of Massachusetts. "That's an unequivocal 'I don't want to be a university president.'"
Henry Louis "Skip" Gates Jr., the powerful head of the Afro-American Studies Department--and a self-described former "flavor of the month" for the presidency himself--says that Rice would have been "brilliant" as the 27th president of Harvard.
Rice had been mentioned as a possible candidate for the post, albeit a long shot--she has no Harvard affiliation.
She has been offered the top job at several other major universities. In 1997 she turned down the chancellorship of the University of California at Berkeley, one of academia's most prestigious posts.
Phillip D. Zelikow, a former professor at the Kennedy School of Government who is close with Rice, said that for a top Stanford administrator, the Harvard presidency is a hard sell because Harvard is so decentralized.
"Condi knows [Harvard's] a tough institution of which to be president," Zelikow says. "It's much harder, say, than Stanford. It's far more decentralized. The president and provost are weaker jobs. Condi knows that very well."
At 45, Rice already has a glittering resume: she graduated from the University of Denver at 19, became an assistant professor at Stanford at 26 and joined the White House of George H.W. Bush at 32 as senior director for Soviet affairs for the National Security Council.
In 1993, Stanford President Gerhard S. Casper--whom she had helped select as a member of Stanford's presidential search committee--made her his number-two only months after she had received tenure.
In addition to being the youngest Stanford provost ever, she was also the first woman and the first black person appointed to the post.
Rice's colleagues from Stanford have only good things to say about the former provost.
"She's a very, very good leader," says Coit Blacker, deputy director of Stanford's Institute for International Studies. "She's very clear, she's very forceful, she sets her priorities clearly. She's tough, fair-minded and disciplined."
In her first two years in office, Rice eliminated Stanford's annual operating deficit of $30 million. Though the cuts were difficult for the faculty, they set the foundation for five years of highly successful fundraising.
Another defining feature of Rice's tenure was her strong stance on affirmative action. She argued that it was right for the university to use affirmative action in hiring junior faculty and staff, but that it should not be applied in tenure decisions.
Despite her success at Stanford, Rice's friends and colleagues say that now, she doesn't consider a university presidency--even at Harvard--enough of a challenge.
"She thinks she's done her tour as a senior university administrator," Blacker says. "I think, frankly, she sees other worlds to conquer."
--Marc J. Ambinder contributed to the reporting of this article.
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