“Bob Stone ranks among the three or four most influential people of the last 25 years in helping to shape Harvard’s constructive influence on the world,” the University’s incoming interim president, Derek C. Bok, said in a statement. “I regard his passing as a great loss,” Bok added.
Stone took a leave from Harvard to serve in the U.S. Army in the Pacific during World War II. Back on campus, Stone was an economics concentrator in Kirkland House and a member of the Owl Club, The Crimson reported. He was also the captain of the men’s heavyweight crew squad that set a world record for 2,000 meters. He later served as a trustee of the National Rowing Foundation.
After his Harvard College days, Stone went on to become a top executive in the shipping industry, first as president and chairman of State Marine Lines, then as president of the Kirby Corporation, an inland tank barge operator.
He was named to the seven-member Corporation, the University’s highest governing board, in 1975. "Bob Stone is the world's finest fundraiser," longtime Corporation member Hugh D. Calkins '45 told The Crimson 10 years after Stone joined the board. "He's indefatigable," Calkins added at the time. "He has absolutely no hesitation to say to people, 'I'm sorry, that's not enough.'"
Stone's fundraising acumen ultimately became the stuff of legend. Calkins later said that Stone "would hear about an Arabian sheik who had some remote connection to Harvard, and he would hop on the next plane there."
Stone became the Corporation's senior fellow in 1995 and stepped down in 2002. He received an honorary doctor of laws degree from the University in 2003.
During his time on the Corporation, he served on the search committee that named Neil L. Rudenstine to be Harvard’s 26th president in 1991. When he led the panel that ultimately picked Summers, The Crimson termed Stone “Harvard’s kingmaker.” The Crimson reported at the time that Stone often took financial aid students to the Faculty Club when he came to campus for Corporation meetings.
In his 50th reunion report, Stone described his service to Harvard as "probably the most worthwhile thing I have done in my lifetime."
According to Harvard officials, Stone is survived by his wife of 58 years, Marion Rockefeller Stone of Greenwich, Conn., as well as six children and 15 grandchildren. A service will be held at Memorial Church on May 4.