Talk:President of Harvard University

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I removed the list of Harvard presidents from Harvard University people and set up this article. I have also added a table at the end of the articles on the various presidents, which links to this article and lists their respective predecessors and successors in the office. Since many presidents don't have articles, I also added several stubs. Perhaps someone else might be interested in finishing this job. [unsigned]

Among my many changes (including restoring the Nathaniel Eaton and John Winthrop (1714-1779) references, which had somehow dropped out), I removed three paragraphs. One was obviated by my new President and Fellows of Harvard College article; here are the other two:

Although the president's duties are largely administrative, all Harvard presidents so far have been credentialed academics, and all have held degrees from Harvard. Derek C. Bok (1971-1991) was the first president not to have graduated from Harvard College (the university's undergraduate institution), but he and his successors have all received degrees from Harvard's graduate schools. The list of presidents includes some who have made significant intellectual contributions as academics (usually before attaining the presidency), as well as some whose careers were largely devoted to educational administration. The current president, Lawrence H. Summers (2001- ), who has done original work in economics, falls into the former category. His predecessor, Neil L. Rudenstine (1991-2001), falls into the latter. A few of Harvard's presidents, including the current incumbent, have had political careers outside academia.
Perhaps the most influential of all Harvard presidents was chemist James B. Conant (1933-1953). Conant was instrumental in transforming Harvard, until then widely perceived as a 'finishing school' for members of the New England upper class, into a world-class research university. He introduced aptitude tests into the undergraduate admissions system so that students would be chosen for their intellectual promise and merit, rather than their social connections. Many American colleges followed Conant's lead, and this campaign led eventually to the creation of the SAT. Conant also did much to move general undergraduate education away from its traditional emphasis on the classics, and towards a more scientific and modern subject matter. He also played an important role as a science advisor to the U.S. government.

As you can see, I've salvaged crucial bits of each; I think the article is tighter this way. [I also happen to disagree with elements of each paragraph: in the first, I think the distinction made between Summers and Rudenstine is unfair, since Summers' recent Treasury post is more administrative than academic while Rudenstine's background as a student of Renaissance poetry shouldn't be ignored. In the second, I think there's no doubt that Eliot deserves mention more than Conant... but ultimately, neither one should be overly dwelt-on here. Rather, if somebody has the time, he/she could refactor some of this Conant info into the James B. Conant article.] Doops 09:14, 27 Jun 2004 (UTC)