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Harvard Corporation Senior Fellow James R. Houghton ’58, who played a key role in the resignation of former University President Lawrence H. Summers and presided over the appointment of his successor, Drew G. Faust, will leave his post on the University’s top governing board at the end of the current academic year.
Robert D. Reischauer ’63, who joined the Corporation as a fellow in 2002 after concluding his six-year term on the Board of Overseers, will succeed Houghton as senior fellow, according to a University announcement of Houghton’s decision released Monday afternoon.
With nearly a decade and a half of service, Houghton is twice over the most senior member of the Corporation—the six-person body that oversees and advises Harvard’s president. He joined the board in 1995 and became its senior fellow in 2002.
Houghton is also an active member of several boards of directors of various companies, and the current chairman of the board of trustees at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Upon graduating from Harvard Business School in 1962, Houghton spent much of his professional career at Corning Incorporated—a maker of specialty glass and ceramics—where he eventually rose to the top posts of chairman and CEO in 1983, and again in 2002.
The senior fellow post—which can be described as the first among equals—differs from that of the Chair of the board, the President, who leads the meetings. But Houghton has been a distinct and important presence in the group: he is responsible for representing all Corporation members on certain occasions and chairs the meetings when the President is absent, wrote Harvard Corporation member Nannerl O. Keohane in an e-mailed statement.
Houghton has also been active in reaching out to members of the Board of Overseers, Harvard’s second-highest governing board, according to Keohane.
“Under his leadership we are meeting with them more often, and learning from each other,” she wrote of her colleague. “This has been an important step, and it owes a lot to Jamie.”
“He has been a first-rate leader and an important voice for the university, and someone who has been concerned about all dimensions of the institution,” Reischauer said in an interview Monday. “I think all of us are deeply grateful for contributions he’s made—not just through the smooth functioning of the Corporation, but to the strength of the University overall.”
Christine M. Heenan, vice president for public affairs and communications, said she believes that there are “no formal rules” regarding the appointment of a senior fellow, though seniority conventionally plays a “primary factor” in these decisions.
“[I]n this case, the members unanimously agreed that Bob Reischauer was the natural choice, given his longevity of service on both the Corporation and the Overseers,” Heenan wrote in an e-mailed statement.
Reischauer, who will be replacing Houghton, was elected to the Board of Overseers in 1996 and served for six years before joining the Corporation. Corporation Fellow Robert E. Rubin ’60—the former Citigroup executive and Secretary of the Treasury—joined the group shortly before Reischauer in 2002. He did not serve previously as an Overseer.
“[H]e will be a terrific contributor and leader as senior fellow,” wrote Rubin of Reischauer in an e-mailed statement, adding that he looks forward to working with Reischauer in his new position.
“I’m honored to be asked to fill this role. The Corporation operates very much as a collegial, non-hierarchical body that governs largely by consensus,” Reischauer said. “As a mere member before this transition takes place, I had the feeling that my voice was important and listened to, and I think all my colleagues would expect that to continue over the course of the ensuing years.”
Reischauer, who will be involved in the search process for the new Corporation member, said it is “premature” for him to have outlined his priorities and goals for his upcoming tenure as Senior Fellow.
Houghton confirmed his plans for departure to his Corporation colleagues at their Dec. 7 gathering, wishing to make his announcement before the end of the month to jump-start the search for a replacement next year, according to the release.
In compliance with the University’s charter, the Corporation elects any new Corporation member with the counsel and approval of the Board of Overseers. A joint committee of the Corporation and the Board will soon begin a search to fill the vacancy to be left by Houghton.
“It’s been a true honor to have been able to serve Harvard over the years,” Houghton is quoted in the release. “I believe that today, under the leadership of our distinguished president and with support from our other constituencies, the future of our ‘fair Harvard’ is bright indeed.”
“I’ve been around Harvard for more than 50 years, through challenge and change, and the wealth of talent in our community never ceases to amaze me,” wrote Houghton, a former Lowell House history concentrator and active undergraduate member of the A.D. final club.
Even before Houghton’s arrival on campus as an undergraduate, his family’s long-standing legacy at the school had already created a visible imprint—reflected prominently in the name of the Houghton Library, the University’s rare book collection. Houghton entered the Business School and completed his MBA in 1962.
—Staff writer Esther I. Yi can be reached at email@example.com.
Due to an editing error, an earlier version of the subheadline for the Dec. 16 news article "Senior Fellow Leaves Board" incorrectly stated that James R. Houghton '58 would be leaving the Harvard Corporation after a six-year term. In fact, Houghton will have served on the corporation for nearly 15 years when he steps down this spring.
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