Summers Designated as 27th President of Harvard UniversityBy Thomas B. Edsall
THE WASHINGTON POST -- Lawrence H. Summers ’75, the former Treasury secretary and professor of economics, will become the 27th president of Harvard University with the goal of further integrating one of the nation’s premier educational institutions into a world economy dominated by revolutions in information and technology.
In accepting the post Sunday at a news conference in Cambridge, Mass., Summers, 46, declared that “in a global economy that is increasingly shaped around knowledge,” it is “an exciting era for education.”
The appointment of Summers to replace retiring president Neil H. Rudenstine signals the university’s shift from focusing on what has been a period of highly successful fundraising. Summers made it clear that his focus will be on ensuring that Harvard remains on the cutting edge of teaching and research in the face of growing challenges, especially from such West Coast schools as Stanford University and the California Institute of Technology.
“Harvard has long aspired to set a standard for education and scholarship of the highest quality, and there is no pursuit more important for individuals or for society,” Summers said. “Working with faculty, students, staff and alumni, I look forward to helping the university extend its tradition of excellence in teaching and research while adapting to a rapidly changing world.”
Summers edged out two other finalists, University of Michigan President Lee C. Bollinger and Harvard Provost Harvey V. Fineberg. Eighteen years ago, Summers, then 28, was the youngest person to win a tenured professorship at Harvard.
The decision to appoint Summers to the presidency was made at a meeting of Harvard’s Board of Overseers in New York and formally announced in Cambridge.
A lifelong Democrat, Summers served as chief economic adviser to the presidential campaign of former Massachusetts governor Michael Dukakis. Summers, who has described himself as a “market-oriented progressive,” is a proponent of what The Economist described as “free-market advocacy with a social conscience.”