Student Life Archives (2001-2008)

Wrighton likely contender for Harvard president position

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Emerging as a contender for Harvard’s next president is the University’s own Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton. Since the resignation of Lawrence Summers at the end of the 2005-2006 academic year, there has been widespread speculation as to who will lead the nation’s premier educational institution in the upcoming year.

In December, The Harvard Crimson broke a story revealing 11 of the roughly 30 names the search committee presented to its Board of Overseers.

Though Harvard is still considering him as a possible candidate, Wrighton denied any interest in the position when his name was first mentioned last December. Dean of Arts & Sciences James McLeod was not surprised that Wrighton is one of the candidates.

“I assume that they recognize what we recognize. He’s a great educational leader. He’s terrific. I’m assuming that everyone who knows him and knows Washington University knows what a terrific job he’s done,” said McLeod.

While McLeod feels that it is unlikely that Wrighton will decide to leave, he notes that the possibility exists.

“I’m not a person who reads tea leaves like this-I have no way of judging what Harvard will do,” said McLeod. “I’m assuming we can show him we love him more than they do, but I’m assuming they all know what a great job’s been done over the past decade.”

Senior Richard Zernickow, who holds the undergraduate student seat on the board of trustees, believes Wrighton has no intention of leaving.

“In my interactions with him, he’s got plans for the University and seems dedicated to Wash. U.,” said Zernickow. “He has a vision, and wants to see that vision out. I don’t see him leaving at all. In some of the meetings, I’ve seen some of the plans he’s laid out and it looks like he’s put a lot into it.”

When contacted last week, Wrighton was unavailable for comment, said to be traveling in Turkey.

Final-round interviews for the position are currently being planned for the four frontrunners of the search-Stanford Provost John W. Etchemendy, Radcliffe Institute Dean Drew Gilpin Faust, Harvard Law School Institute Dean Elena Kagan and University of Cambridge Chief Allison F. Richard. The committee is also planning on adding another name to that list from a scientific field, with Wrighton being a key candidate. Harvard has not elected a president from any scientific field since James Bryant Conant, who was president from 1933 to 1955.

Lecturer in Women and Gender Studies Barbara Baumgartner was impressed by Harvard’s inclusion of two women among the top candidates.

“Harvard is one of the premier educational institutions in the country, and if Harvard chooses a female chancellor, that would provide a wonderful example and model for all other educational institutions,” said Baumgartner.

Chancellor Mark Wrighton was elected the 14th chancellor of Washington University in St. Louis in 1995. His long academic career began at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1972 as an assistant professor of chemistry. He became head of the department in 1987. He then held the position of MIT Provost from 1990 until his election to the position of Chancellor at the University.

Wrighton has received a host of grants and fellowships in the field of chemistry, has assisted in writing 300 articles in professional and scholarly journals and holds 14 patents. He has also served on a wide array of boards, including the National Science Foundation, the Boston Museum of Science and the Editorial Advisory Board.

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