Last September, Ramsey Professor of Political Economy Richard J. Zeckhauser attended a speech by Lawrence H. Summers at the ARCO forum about globalization and debt relief for poor countries.
Sitting next to him was a member of the Harvard presidential search committee.
After the talk, Summers fielded questions on recent speculation that he was interested in becoming the University's twenty-seventh president. He declined to comment on his future plans, saying only that "I am sufficiently occupied with [my work] in Washington."
And Zeckhauser, a long-time friend of Summers' who has kept in touch with him since his days as a Harvard professor, turned to the person in the next seat.
"I said something to the committee member like, 'He really engaged the undergraduates' questions effectively,'" Zeckhauser recalled. "The committee member said something like, 'Yes, but I can't really talk about that.'"
And though search committee members remained tight-lipped throughout the process, friends of Summers had many opportunities to talk to committee members behind the scenes about their favorite candidate.
Friends who wrote letters or met with the committee said they stressed Summers' managerial skill at the Treasury Department, where he oversaw a staff of 16,000 people--comparable, they said, to the administrative demands of his new position.
Besides his work in Washington, several economics professors said they emphasized Summers' short career as a star economist at Harvard to the search committee.
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