Making Harvard Modern: The Rise of America's University

By Morton Keller; Phyllis Keller | Go to book overview
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9
GOVERNING
THE AFFLUENT UNIVERSITY

W hen Conant left the presidency in 1953, Harvard was still under the sway of its traditional soft-shoe, old boy administrative style. Pusey felt no great obligation to modernize governance. To the end of his presidential days, he relied on an almost ostentatiously small staff. When he came to work each morning, he opened his own mail. Here as elsewhere, older folkways stubbornly endured.


An Empowered Elite

Pusey's closest associates in the 1950s were two very different breeds of cat. One was personal assistant William Bentinck-Smith '37, an affable, cool-minded former journalist with a facile pen (something the president lacked). Bentinck-Smith was Pusey's amanuensis and a close adviser on a variety of alumni and policy matters, very much as Calvert Smith had been for Conant in the 1940s. “I worked for him for eighteen extraordinary years, in a relationship of mutual trust and intimacy, Bentinck-Smith recalled. 1

Pusey's (improbable) other close confidant was Faculty of Arts and Sciences dean McGeorge Bundy. If Pusey was as much a product of middle America as a Harvard president was likely to be, Bundy was as close to an aristocrat as America was likely to produce. He was a scion of the Boston Lowells, self-confident enough to have gone not to Harvard but to Yale. Rumor had it that the Corporation put pressure on Pusey to make Bundy dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. Fellow Roger Lee told the president-elect in the summer of 1953: “only if a first-rate administrator is available and thoroughly briefed before the opening of college will you yourself be free to deal with the many policy questions which will naturally arise with a change in the presidency.” Pusey

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