On The A List At Harvard B School

When Harvard business school's first-year MBAs begin the school year Sept. 7, they will be greeted by a familiar face. John H. McArthur, who last March announced his intention to leave after 15 years as dean, had hoped to be out of a job by now. Instead, he will address students before they set off for classes.

It probably will be one of his last official duties. By September's end, Harvard University President Neil L. Rudenstine is expected to name McArthur's successor. Since March, faculty and alumni search committees have considered a wide range of candidates to head the world's richest and most powerful business school. Now, Rudenstine has narrowed the search to a handful of finalists from more than a hundred early nominees, according to insiders.

CRIMSON TIES. A university spokesman says Rudenstine hasn't picked the winner. But the odds-on favorite, according to faculty members and administrators, is Kim B. Clark, a low-profile professor of technology and operations who has won broad support among faculty and alumni. Clark, 46, is Harvard born and bred, having won his bachelor's, master's, and doctorate degrees in economics there before joining the business school faculty in 1978. He is widely respected for his scholarship--considered a key criterion by faculty members--and is viewed as a potentially articulate spokesman for the school.

Clark, who wouldn't comment, has little administrative experience, though he has been chairman of his department since 1990. That leaves the door open to several other insider contenders: Leonard A. Schlesinger, 43, a dynamic senior associate dean who is leading the school's curriculum changes; Jay O. Light, a popular finance professor and former senior administrator who has long been considered a possible successor; and two of Clark's colleagues in the technology-and-operations area, Robert H. Hayes, 59, and Steven C. Wheelwright, 51.

Schlesinger, the favorite among faculty members who support major changes at the school, took his name out of consideration for the deanship at Dartmouth College's Amos Tuck School of Business shortly before McArthur announced his plan to quit. Schlesinger would bring to the job an unusual real-world credential, having been chief operating officer of the Au Bon Pain Co. bakery-cafe chain for three years during the 1980s. Light, a thoughtful and candid professor considered to be an unlikely agent for change, has won favor from other faculty who prefer to retain the status quo. Schlesinger and Light wouldn't comment.

"AMAZED." At the same time, however, the search for a new dean has also produced an unusual list of outside contenders, all thought to be long shots. Sources say Rudenstine has considered such external candidates as John Clarkeson, president and chief executive of Boston Consulting Group Inc.; W. Mitt Romney, CEO of Bain Capital Inc. and an unsuccessful candidate for the U.S. Senate; Laura D'Andrea Tyson, a University of California at Berkeley economist who chairs the White House's National Economic Council; and even P. Roy Vagelos, 65, former chairman of Merck & Co.

Romney, a member of the Visiting Committee that assesses the B-school every three years, says he hasn't been interviewed for the job. "The school may be considering me, but in my view, it seems that the short list should be exclusively composed of internal candidates," he says. "I would be amazed if the new dean was not an insider." Tyson says she hasn't been approached, and Clarkeson declined comment. Vagelos couldn't be reached.

Whoever gets the job won't have a cakewalk. The new dean will inherit a financially secure enterprise but one considered to be drifting academically, filled with huge, often warring egos. Any candidate will have to lead an overhaul of the school's MBA program, rejuvenate the antiquated executive-education offerings, and squeeze more revenues out of Harvard's considerable publishing operations. All that, plus glad-handing the students each fall.

HARVARD HONCHOS Handicapping the top contenders for B-school dean


Highly respected academic chairs technology and operations faculty. Lacks administrative experience

ODDS: 3-1


Senior associate dean is leading a major review of the school's curriculum.

A risk-taker

ODDS: 5-1


Led Boston Consulting Group through rapid growth and rejuvenation. The leading outsider

ODDS: 8-1


Ran unsuccessfully for U.S. Senate. Boasts solid business credentials but may be deemed too political

ODDS: 15-1


Former Merck chairman is winning support among alumni. Major drawback: his age, 65

ODDS: 25-1

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