Passing the Corporate Baton

William F. Lee is expected to continue trend toward a more open Harvard Corporation

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“[Now] we’re able to sort through facilities issues, particularly financial issues, in committees and bring recommendations to the full Corporation,” Keohane says. “We discuss them around the big table, but we don’t feel we have to go into them in the same detail.”

Lee says that he intends to emulate Reischauer’s leadership style, given the open, engaged, and informal nature of the group that allows them to effectively tackle issues.

“The key to his leadership has been that he hasn’t been out front saying ‘follow me,’ and Drew’s leadership style is not ‘follow me,’” Lee says, adding that a governance structure not dependent on the particular identity of the senior fellow is crucial for the consistency and stability of Harvard’s top leadership.

To the same end, Lee emphasizes a strong and close relationship with Faust. He says that, since his appointment, he has been in contact with her two or three times each week.


In addition to exhibiting an understated leadership style, Corporation members say that Lee is well-positioned to build upon the body’s progress toward opening up to the community from their meeting place in Loeb Housea central goal of its governance reforms.

Over the past three years, the Corporation has increasingly tried to shed its reputation as a mysterious black box by meeting with students and faculty on issues like divestment from fossil fuels.

“I think there’s a lot more input, a lot more openness to outside input that would not have been true a few years ago,” Rothenberg says.

A simple but important advantage of Lee’s appointment is his residence down the Charles River, which will allow a greater physical presence on campus than Reischauer, who lives and works in Washington, D.C. Lee is one of several that help constitutes an increasingly Boston-based corporation. Local businessman Joseph J. O’Donnell ’67, and Lawrence S. Bacow, president-in-residence at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education and former president of Tufts University, also live in greater Boston.

"There's a lot more input, a lot more openness to outside input [than there was] a few years ago," University treasurer James F. Rothenberg '68 said.

Lee also relates his interest in openness and appreciation of that quality at Harvard in particular to his personal background.

“I was one of the people who were the direct result of President [James B.] Conant’s effort to open up the University to a broader group of folks,” Lee says.

In addition to forming stronger connections with the campus, Reischauerand, going forward, Leehas tried to open channels of communication with other institutions. For example, Reischauer has attended meetings of chairs of boards of trustees in the Ivy League, a move that Keohane said has been facilitated by the Corporation’s new committee structure and delegation of responsibilities.

“That has given us all a sense of what our colleagues are thinking,” Keohane says. “Far from diminishing the role, he [Reischauer] has gracefully expanded it.”

It is yet to be seen how effectively Lee will continue that expansion. He has remained relatively quiet about his own priorities relative to Reischauer’s, but Corporation members have speculated that he will continue the progress the Corporation has already made.

“We have a really dynamic student body and faculty,” Lee says. “The question for us is, looking at the short term and the long term, how do we ensure that that is true ten years from now, 20 years from now, 50 years from now?”

—Staff writer Amna H. Hashmi can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @amna_hashmi.