Wealthy Harvard to lose president

June 2, 2000

Harvard president Neil Rudenstine has announced his resignation after helping America's top university to raise $2.6 billion (Pounds 1.7 billion) during an otherwise largely uneventful nine years as its leader.

As a result of Dr Rudenstine's fundraising, Harvard is believed to have become the world's second wealthiest non-profit institution, after the Roman Catholic church, with an endowment of $15.5 billion.

The president said he was proud of helping the university to develop the nation's pre-eminent African-American studies department and of having merged Radcliffe College - which once served women undergraduates separately - with Harvard.

But he was less successful at achieving his goal of uniting the university's disparate academic departments. Critics said he was not assertive enough to overcome the resistance of the deans who run the separate schools and jealously guard their own turfs, but Dr Rudenstine said he could not have been expected to overhaul in a few years a century-old system.

And while he attained a not entirely flattering reputation for making lengthy speeches at such occasions as the university's commencements, Dr Rudenstine was criticised for failing to use his position to speak for higher education on the national stage.

This was despite a work schedule so intensive that Dr Rudenstine took a highly publicised three-month medical leave in 1995 because of "severe fatigue and exhaustion". The episode focused attention on the increasing work-load of university presidents.

Dr Rudenstine, 65, will remain until the end of the next academic year, making his tenure considerably longer than the average US university head. He said his time at Harvard had been "an extraordinary privilege and an exhilarating experience", and that there was "no human pursuit of greater value to individuals and to society, and there is nothing more engaging and fulfilling than to be part of it".

The search for his replacement will begin this summer, Harvard officials said. One potential successor from inside the university is Harvey Fineberg, Dr Rudenstine's hand-picked provost and former dean of Harvard's school of public health. But observers expect that the university's next president will be someone who understands the worlds of electronic commerce and distance education.

Other candidates are likely to include presidents of major research universities, provosts or deans at other Ivy League colleges, or chief executives of leading liberal arts schools.


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