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Former Harvard Overseer and Boston-based intellectual property lawyer William F. Lee ’72 has been selected to serve on the Harvard Corporation and said yesterday that he plans to continue the University’s highest governing body’s efforts to increase its transparency.
The Corporation has recently come under a hailstorm of criticism for what many perceive to be an extreme lack of transparency, but the body has, in recent years, taken steps to increase interactions between the Board of Overseers and the Corporation under the direction of departing Senior Fellow James R. Houghton ’58.
Lee said in an interview with The Crimson yesterday that he supports the increase in transparency and that he plans to go on a listening tour with members of the University before he begins his term as a Corporation member on July 1.
“As any governing body, the Corporation needs to be listening and talking to hear what is going on in the broader community,” he said.
“Increasing communication improves the quality of decisions,” he added.
Lee’s selection marks the end of a search process that reviewed over 80 candidates and solicited advice and input from a larger portion of the Harvard community than the Corporation has typically included in its decisions.
“We were looking for somebody who had deep commitment to Harvard and energy and enthusiasm about contributing to the institution,” said Corporation member Robert D. Reischauer ’63, who chaired the search committee and will assume the role of senior fellow when Houghton departs.
Lee emerged as the consensus candidate and received nearly universal support from those involved in the selection process, according to Overseer Lynn W. Chang ’75, who added that many thought it would be helpful to appoint someone from the Boston area who could more actively engage with the work of the University.
That sentiment was echoed by Reischauer yesterday.
“It was highly desirable to have an individual who was in the Boston area and could engage more frequently than those of us who have to get on an airplane do,” Reischauer said.
The selection of the first Asian American to the Corporation marks a milestone in the governing body’s history, and Lee’s appointment comes 10 years after the Corporation selected its first black member, Conrad K. Harper.
Lee will replace long-serving member Houghton, who joined the Corporation in 1995 and in 2002 became its senior fellow—a position members have in the past described as a first among equals.
Lee has served on the Board of Overseers for the past eight years and was a member of the search committee that selected Drew G. Faust as University president in 2007.
A former Adams House resident, Lee has taught courses at Harvard Law School in the past and collaborated on the school’s most recent teaching venture, a problem solving course aimed at reforming the school’s curriculum. His daughter, a 2002 graduate of the College, captained the women’s swimming team.
Lee is currently a co-managing partner of the law firm WilmerHale, one of the nation’s most prestigious law firms, and managed the 2004 merger of the Boston firm Hale and Dorr and the Washington-based Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering.
The Corporation is currently in the midst of an internal governance review that is examining the organization’s operations.
Reischauer, who as incoming senior fellow will take on an increased leadership role after Houghton’s departure, declined to describe the coming period as one of certain change for the Corporation.
“It’s certainly one of consideration of change, but Harvard doesn’t want to jump the gun,” he said.
—Staff writer Elias J. Groll can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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