Though it is rare for HBS—or any other professional or graduate school—to admit a student who does not have an undergraduate degree, admissions officers made an exception for Blake Gottesman, who for four years has served as special assistant and personal aide to Bush.
Gottesman, a Texas native who attended Claremont-McKenna College in California for one year, has long had ties to the Bush family. He dated the president’s daughter, Jenna Bush, nearly ten years ago when he attended St. Andrew’s Episcopal School of Austin.
After completing his freshman year at Claremont in 1999, he left to join the Bush presidential campaign and later served as a junior aide to former White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card. In February 2002, he became the president’s personal assistant.
In his current role, Gottesman performs a wide range of duties, from dog-sitting the president’s Scottish terriers, Barney and Miss Beazley, to carrying the president’s speeches and giving him the “two-minute warning” before a speech begins.
Gottesman has declined all requests for comment on his business school admission, but White House staffers have described him as loyal, warm, and fun-loving.
“He is a friend and adviser to every employee of the White House, from career maintenance workers to cabinet secretaries,” Deputy Chief of Staff Joe Hagin told The Myrtle Beach Sun News. “He is consistently kind and warm and generous with his time and provides extraordinarily good advice.”
Gottesman has likened his role at the White House to that of Charlie Young on the NBC television program “The West Wing.” When asked about his similarity to Young in an interactive question-and-answer session on the White House’s Web site, Gottesman wrote, “Charlie seems to be smarter, funnier, and better-looking. But, from what I remember—our jobs are probably pretty similar.”
HBS spokesman James E. Aisner ’68 explained the decision to accept Gottesman, even though he is not a college graduate, by telling The Economist that “extraordinary circumstances will sometimes compel it to drop [its] rule” of only admitting students who hold bachelor's degrees.
He refused to comment specifically on Gottesman, citing Harvard’s policy of not commenting on the admission of any individual student.
Aisner also pointed out to The Economist that Harvard would surely admit applicants like Bill Gates and Michael Dell, both of whom are college dropouts.
But the often-snarky British weekly noted: “Needless to say, holding the president’s hand-sanitizer is a far cry from heading a Fortune 500 company.”
—Staff writer Paras D. Bhayani can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.