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Harvard Narrows Down List Of Presidential Candidates

By Marcella Bombardieri
and Maria Sacchetti

Harvard has whittled down hundreds of nominees for its next president to a small list, including internal candidates and presidents of some of the nation’s top universities, according to a source familiar with the process.

The source would not give a specific number, but said the university is considering a smaller group than the 30 names that the presidential search committee presented to Harvard’s Board of Overseers on Sunday.

Harvard is focusing on an elite group of academics, many of them with deep ties to Harvard.

The university’s last president, Lawrence H. Summers ’75, who had been a Harvard professor, was atypical because of his political experience in Washington as Clinton’s former treasury secretary.

Eleven of the 30 names were first reported yesterday in the student newspaper, the Harvard Crimson, in an article about the Sunday overseers meeting. The source confirmed those 11 names to the Globe yesterday, as well as two others.

Harvard spokesmen declined to confirm the information yesterday.

The search began shortly after Summers announced his resignation in February, ending a tumultuous five-year tenure.

The presidential search committee, which includes the Corporation, the university’s main governing board, as well as some members of the Board of Overseers, is conducting the search. It will keep narrowing the list of contenders with the intention of picking a president by early next year.

The Board of Overseers then must give the final stamp of approval.

On the list of 30 candidates presented to the overseers were three Harvard leaders who worked for Summers: provost Steven E. Hyman, a neuroscientist; Elena Kagan, the dean of Harvard Law School; and Drew Gilpin Faust, a history professor and dean of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study.

The list also included top-tier academic officials in the United States and Britain: University of Pennsylvania president Amy Gutmann; Brown University president Ruth J. Simmons; Princeton University president Shirley M. Tilghman; Tufts University president Lawrence S. Bacow; Stanford provost John W. Etchemendy; Alison F. Richard, the vice chancellor of the University of Cambridge in England; and Lee C. Bollinger, president of Columbia University.

Two former Harvard administrators were also part of the group: Kim B. Clark, the former dean of Harvard’s business school, who surprised many by leaving to become president of Brigham Young University-Idaho in 2005; and Harvey V. Fineberg, a former Harvard provost who is now president of the Washington-based Institute of Medicine. Also on the list is Anne-Marie Slaughter, a former Harvard professor who is the dean of Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.

Fineberg, Bollinger, and Gutmann were among the top candidates in Harvard’s last search .

The university’s top governing board expects to name a final candidate early next year.

Search committee chairman James R. Houghton said in a letter to about 250,000 alumni, students, faculty, and staff last spring that Harvard would be seeking someone with high intellectual distinction, proven leadership qualities, and “a capacity to guide a complex institution through a time of significant change.”

Harvard is poised to significantly expand its campus, boost stem cell research, and revamp the undergraduate curriculum.

Interim president Derek Bok, who was the president of Harvard from 1971 to 1991, is in charge until a new president is found.

Bok took over in July after Summers ended his term, which was marked by his controversial remarks about women’s aptitude for science and math careers and by battles with the faculty of arts and sciences .