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Marc L. Goodheart '81 doesn't want you to know who he is.
The door to his second floor Mass. Hall office is unlabeled. He doesn't return reporters' phone calls. The most popular word his colleagues use to describe him is "discreet."
As President Neil L. Rudenstine's Staff Director Jackie O'Neill jokes, Goodheart's lips are sealed from having personally licked the 200,000 envelopes that the presidential search committee sent to the Harvard community early this year.
As Secretary to the ultra-secretive Harvard Corporation, Goodheart is the administrative mastermind behind the search. He's a key aide and confidante to the members of the presidential search committee, planning its meetings and serving as a conduit between Rudenstine, the Corporation, the Board of Overseers and the deans.
His Harvard colleagues describe Goodheart as a brilliant lawyer with a sharp wit and an even sharper pen, who feels that his job requires him not to talk to the press--even though he was once a journalist himself.
But although Goodheart is reticent, his friends reveal that the mysterious man with the shock of gray-speckled hair has a past and a personal life: a spectacular academic career led to a clerkship with a future Supreme Court Justice and, brought him to the halls of power at Harvard at age 32.
Goodheart mother, Hope Goodheart, laughs when told her son is "cooperating with us through the news office."
"That's my son," she says. "That's my son."
Marc Goodheart was the first in his family to go to Harvard--a place his mother says he always dreamed of attending and never wanted to leave.
"I never thought when I sent him off that he'd never come home!" she says now. "I'm thrilled that he's there. He's as happy as a clam."
He may be happy, but he's certainly quiet about it. His Mass. Hall office is tucked inconspicuously in the back of the second floor. And from all outward appearance, the office--like the man--is anonymous.
"He's very reserved," his mother says.
But not too reserved to call his mother during a break in a high-powered meeting Sunday.
He came to Harvard in 1977, graduating magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa with a major in physics.
He also worked on the Harvard Independent, the campus weekly, where he rose through the ranks from sports editor to president.
His op-eds for the Indy are sharp and tightly written, spanning subjects
from Harvard's swim team (it's "grown too big for its bathing suit" to the
state of student journalism (lamentable--"too many of us write more for our resumes than our readers").
Before becoming president he was sports editor of the paper, writing frequently about football and baseball. Sometimes he blends sports and news; in a two page spread called "Poisoning Pigeons in the Park" he shows how Harvard put poisoned corn at the stadium in an attempt to kill off its pigeon population.
He was occasionally critical of his future bosses--Harvard administration. For example, in a farewell column he calls for increased central administration openness (see box, page 5).
Goodheart did not write a thesis, but in the Independent he offered a manual for thesis writers that urged them to use style so spectacular that it would "make substance superfluous." He offers a series of cut-and-paste lines that writers could insert into their theses: music writers might describe the "impetuously mercurial hemlola of the percussively insistent ostinato."
In addition to working at the Indy he covered swimming for the Harvard
Sports Network and was a member of Harvard Radio Broadcasting (WHRB).
In 1985, he graduated from Harvard Law School, where he served as executive editor of the Harvard Law Review.
Jonathan L. Nathanson was on the Review with Goodheart.
"Marc was somebody who I think had a very big impact in a low-key way. He would edit the entire review and basically rewrite everything, both the pieces written by students and outside
professors. The whole thing ended up in his writing voice," says Nathanson.
"You could imagine that that could be a challenging job dealing with a lot of egos and Marc did a terrific job at it. He is a very good writer and had a good
manner of persuading you, having you figure out that his changes made your
writing better," Nathanson said.
After finishing a clerkship for Steven Breyer, the Supreme Court Justice who was then a federal appeals court judge--and would soon be a candidate for the Harvard presidency himself--Goodheart returned to the University, where he joined the General Counsel's office.
He soon moved to the Boston law of Hill & Barlow, where he worked as a trial lawyer for several years.
The firm is smaller than the older firm of Ropes and Gray, but still a powerhouse. As of last year, the firm had 123 lawyers, the largest group of whom work in litigation. The exclusive group of partners includes Goodheart's wife, Lisa, who he met at the firm.
"He was a brilliant young lawyer," says Joseph D. Steinfeld, a senior partner at the firm. "He is a person of exceptional ability, one of the smartest people that had crossed through our doors...The word brilliant is not an overstatement."
At Hill & Barlow he worked in the company's brand new offices, at One International Place, a downtown Boston office building with sweeping views of Boston Harbor. Compensation is generous. Presently, a first-year associate like Goodheart makes $100,000 a year, and a discretionary bonus of up to $40,000.
Colleagues at Hill & Barlow remember Goodheart's work on a team that won a substantial victory for employees of department store chain Jordan Marsh in their class action suit against the store.
He was also deeply involved in representing a death row inmate in Alabama whose death sentence was eventually overturned.
Goodheart's colleagues say that not only was he smart but also a pleasure to
"He's a delightful person to talk to and he's got a very nice quiet sense
of humor he has broadranging interests he reads extensively he likes to
talk about things that he reads" says John A.D. Gilmore, the chair of the
firm's litigation department. "He was very popular with all of the firm's constituencies: the staff, the associates the partners."."
After a huge going away party at Hill & Barlow, Goodheart returned to Harvard in 1991, joining the General Counsel's office as an attorney.
"He was very careful, very thoughtful but also very imaginative and that he wrote exceptionally well," says General Counsel Allan A. Ryan Jr., who worked closely with Goodheart. "He was quite good at conveying to a court the essence of Harvard University's position in this or that case."
Goodheart and Rudenstine quickly became close colleagues. He screened the President's mail, provided feedback on his speeches, set his calendar and determined the agenda for the meetings of top administrators.
Rudenstine speaks glowingly of Goodheart.
"Mark is a total gem," Rudestine says. He's incredibly bright. He is as thoughtful and sensitive a person as I know and he has no ego or comes as close to no ego as anybody I ever met."
"He has a superb eye for seeing where a mistake might be," he adds.
In 1998, Goodheart's office moved to Loeb House, where he became Secretary to the Corporation, the position that gave him responsibility for the search. He succeeded Michael W. Roberts, who left to become head of the PEN American Center, a New York-based organization that fights against censorship.
Sally H. Zeckhauser, the vice president for administration, says that he's discharged his duties with dispatch.
"He's a great person to work with. He's very discreet, so you know when
you're working on something onfidential, it's going to be kept
Goodheart interviewed Zeckhauser to solicit her opinions on the search. Unlike some who had interviewed her before, Goodheart brought a tape recorder.
"I couldn't have been more comfortable," she says of the interview. "I knew he'd take down what I had to say and it wouldn't go out of the room."
Zeckhauser says that Goodheart's closeness to Rudenstine gave him a special wisdom about the institution. In early days, she recalls, he was critical to Rudenstine's administration.
"He really educated us
to Neil and the type of concerns he might have," she says.
Provost Harvey V. Fineberg '67, considered by some to be a strong candidate for Rudenstine' s job, calls Goodheart "a lovely man."
"It's pretty clear that he puts a very hign premium on responsibility," Fineberg says. "He's an extremely good writer, very witty with a very droll sense of humor."
Fineberg says that Goodheart would never want to be known as a campus personality.
An old friend from the days of Hill & Barlow agrees that Goodheart is the soul of discretion.
Deval L. Patrick, a former member of the Board of Overseers who used to work with Goodheart, says that Goodheart is a close confidante to the president and members of Harvard's governing boards.
"That is a role that he's very good at because of his innate wisdom... and it's the kind of role that requires discretion," says Patrick, who is now the general counsel for Texaco. "If he was the kind of person who needed to be in the footlights, he wouldn't be very
happy. I don't think he needs all that....
I don't think glamour has ever been all that important to Marc."
"In hindsight--which is always 20/20--his interests are so varied," says Hope Goodheart. "I didn't really know what he'd be. I just thought he'd
be a success."
He is a success, from all accounts. But he's quiet about it.
Goodheart lives in Brookline with his wife Lisa and two daughters, 19-month-old Naomi and four and a half year-old Nina, a fabulously cute pair, according to colleagues. At home, they say, he enjoys playing the piano, a job at which he is--characteristically--
And he uses his writing skills for more than just his job: two years ago, his mother fondly recalls, he wrote her a parody of a Dr. Seuss story that was "just incredible."
His Own Man
"He clearly has an interest in the public sector or the non-profit
sector. It was pretty clear he wasn't going to end up in a large law
firm," says his Law Review colleague Nathanson. "He loved Harvard so much that he never left campus."
Patrick says that Harvard is lucky to have him.
"I don't think it's the last job he'll have," Patrick says. "He's better at most things than the people are who are doing them...I think harvard's lucky to have him."
Goodheart will refrain from offering his viewpoint on the search until the appropriate moment, Patrick predicts.
Indeed, Goodheart is known to be meticulous. He's present at search committee meetings and interviews. During the committee's search phase, he has sometimes even conducted interviews with top Harvard officials himself. During such interviews, he jots down information, a change from the Rudenstine search, in which officials did not take notes.
He will ensure that the University's search casts a broad net--"full and fair and inclusive," Patrick says.
"I think he will defer to the authority of the governing boards," he says. "I think if there's a real goof among the candidates he would gently and respectfully point that out."
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