The Presidents of Harvard University Vol. 4 – The 20th Century and Beyond

November 14, 2009
Harvard Football

Harvard's football team cherishes its proud recruiting tradition of "taking whoever they can get."

Welcome to the last installment of the Fancy Plans mini-series Presidents of Harvard. As we roll through the 20th century and into the 21st, we continue to wish Harvard the best of luck in all their endeavors, such as cranking out spoiled children with Presidential aspirations and paying lip service to any sport that doesn’t involve a coxswain.

Previous volumes here:
Vol. 1 – The First One Hundred Years
Vol. 2 – The Next Volume
Vol. 3 – The One Before This One

As the turn of the century brought about exciting new changes, Harvard remained steadfast in its refusal to change with the times. Voting women, legal alcohol, smallpox vaccines; whatever it was, the proud Crimson wanted no part of it. The men of Harvard soldiered on, heads and hearts sworn to years past, dying of smallpox left and right.

22. Abbott Lawrence Lowell 1909-1933
As America’s fascination was captured by the “motorcar,” Abbott Lowell took to the halls of Harvard to protest this modern achievement by highlighting the dwindling fortunes of blacksmiths, horseshoe manufacturers and marketers of carriages and buggies. Taking his fight all the way to the halls of Congress, Lowell testified in front of a House Subcommittee with a carefully prepared feltboard presentation that indicated the motorcar’s destructive force on the economy.

He was rebutted by various motorcar manufacturers and their union representatives. Several “rebuttings” occurred, each one more violent than the last. But none was more violent than the last, which hospitalized him for a period of 21 years, a stay that was increased by his frequent bouts with smallpox.

With Lowell out of the picture, the motorcar companies took to the streets in a noisy, smoky black celebration of machinery’s triumph over the common horse. They were joined by representatives from several leading glue factories, early adopters and local musicians Martin Gore, Dave Gahan and Vince Clarke.

Lowell emerged from the hospital into the heart of the Great Depression, which led directly to his depression and several remarks of “What’s so fucking great about it?” He was asked to leave Harvard after three straight weeks of “mellow harshing.”

Affectionately known as “Bud.”

23. James Bryant Conant 1933-1953
Running an elitist school in the middle of the Great Depression was no easy task and J.B. Conant clearly wasn’t up for it. As admissions dwindled and various executives were forced to mortgage their third houses (especially those on St. Charles Place and Kentucky), Conant was frequently asked to come up with some sort of desperation plan to stem the hemorrhaging cash flow.

His first plan, “Passing the Hat,” was met with student riots, often composed of up to five extremely wealthy upperclassmen. His next plan, “Fee For All,” which added surcharges for such student services as “oxygen above the third floor” and “hot water on Tuesdays and Thursdays” was met with more rioting, completely contained in Alfie Moorehead’s dorm room.

By the time his last plan was enacted (1947), the nation has long since pulled out of the Depression and fought a major war. His final effort, titled “Admissions Are Up For Some Reason,” won him the attention of competing schools, who were dealing with dwindling student bodies.

Conant jumped ship to Rutgers for a lucrative two-year contract and spent his final months wildly vacillating on the retirement issue. After several stop-and-start sessions, Conant was finally put out of everyone’s misery by a back alley lobotomy performed by Harvard and Rutgers alumi in a rare display of cross-academic cooperation.

Affectionately known as “Senor Droolcup.”

24. Nathan Marsh Pusey 1953-1971
Already well past his prime (and burdened with an unfortunate surname) by the time he took office, Pusey was unprepared both mentally and physically for the upheaval his country was about to go through.

Other board members would often find themselves cornered at the local country club by an irate and bombed Pusey, who would rant about how “he didn’t get shot in the back by his own platoon in Iwo Jima just to see a bunch of scraggly potheads start rewriting the rule books.”

Pusey spent 19 long years being offended by everything, including (but not limited to) peace marches, bra-burning, the Symbionese Liberation Army, M*A*S*H* (the movie), M*A*S*H* (the TV show), the oddly exciting piano stylings of Jerry Lee Lewis, the oddly exciting marriage of Jerry Lee Lewis to his 13-year-old cousin, “that shirtless and godless Igward Pop,” public displays of affection and the unchecked rise of progressive rock.

Pusey responded to these perceived threats by shuttering his windows, tuning his wireless to the Paul Harvey Show and glaring thru slitted eyes (and shutters) at the “future of America,” most of whom were making love not war right out there on the lawn.

He spent his self-imposed exile penning angry letters to the editor and composing his 1,500-page screed against everything. He retired in 1971 to spend his twilight years as a self-appointed authority on the many wrongs perpetuated by today’s youth.

Affectionately known as “Don ‘Puppy’ Mills.”

25. Derek Bok 1971-1991
Already well past his prime, etc. but without quite as unfortunate a surname as his predecessor, Bok was throughly unprepared for the upheaval ahead of him, and indeed, his country.

Riding out the Vietnam Years as the head of “Draft Dodger U.,” Bok applied his expertise in the business field to found Harvard’s MBA program, which continues to produce overpaid executives to this day.

Having dodged a bullet with the Vietnam situation (along with a majority of his students), Bok made the first of several missteps when he took the position of Goodwill Ambassador to India for Union Carbide. Having survived this unfortunate event, Bok swiftly returned to Harvard’s angry mod-free halls only to be near-fatally wounded during the first inaugural “Jodie Foster Appreciation Day.”

Bok wisely decided to lay low during the rest of his term, often malingering at the local hospital with claims of “hypochondria” and “sucking chest wounds.” He retired in 1991, citing fears of a “coming upheaval in rock and roll, once which I am wholly unprepared to deal with,” adding “No wonder they call it ‘grunge.’ They can’t rightly call it music, can they?”

Affectionately known as “The Angel of Death.”

26. Neil L. Rudenstine 1991-2001
Following in a long line of privileged insiders, Rudenstine took the helm at Harvard during what was no doubt a tumultuous time. Neil made several overtures to his students in an effort to “rap” with them about their fears and doubts. These were rebuffed via the usual protests and riots, most notably the furor over the brief change in Harvard commencement gowns towards a more fashionable plaid.

Rudenstine spent many long hours and great deal of alumni donations attempting to win the hearts and minds of the student body with little to no success. Undeterred, he continued to spend money and ingratiate himself, which earned him the scorn of the student body and their parents.

Forced to rethink his efforts, Rudenstine tackled the problem head-on, utilizing market research and large quantities of booze. Using the “correlation=causation” theory, Rudenstine rationalized that most drunks are happy and a drunken student body would be a happy student body.

He was asked to step down when it became clear that a “drunken student body” more often equalled “paternity suits” or “violent police actions.” His final statement issued a final, drunken “fuck you” to both students and faculty alike, and closed with vaguely worded threats. He was last spotted plying the University of Kansas student body with grain alcohol and waiver forms.

Affectionately known as “Bob and.”

27. Lawrence H. Summers 2001-2006
Summers took the position of president in 2001, vowing to “stay indoors” and “lay low.” He followed through remarkably, showing up for the occasional commencement or formal dinner.

In addition to signing purchase orders and vacation requests, Summers took control of the most-under-control purchasing department. His even hand and temperament soon led to unchecked spending and the eventual dismissal of most of his staff for embezzlement.

His lesson learned, Summers attempted to take the hard-line against future abuses. He soon found his heart wasn’t in it. In fact, he soon found his heart wasn’t really in it for nearly any position or activity, and died of early-onset monotony during a long, uneventful drive to his summer home in the Hamptons. He expired behind the wheel and coasted to a quiet stop well within the lines of the shoulder, where he was found nearly immediately and buried during a small, but respectfully quiet ceremony.

Affectionately knowns as “The President, Whose Name Escapes Me.”



  1. This is far and away your most ambitious and hilarious Harvard post to date. You’ve caused me to spit my late morning vodka/V8 brunch all over my keyboard. This is filled with cleverly disguised wit and innuendo. My only disappointment is with your statement that this is to be your last in the series. Surely you can make up future presidents? Or even move on to lowly Princeton, or even the bottom feeders of Yale? Think on it my good man.

    If only poor (well actually rich) ‘Bud’ Lowell had succeeded in his courageous attempts to stop the combustion engine, how different life might be today. I for one am certain that without the catastrophe of the auto industry we would have teleporters by now. The Middle East would be filled with peace, love and Disneyworld. Detroit would be a beautiful, vibrant city alive with culture, art and slutty aspiring artists. And the men who are now auto executives would be working in their rightful careers as Kirby salesmen or mystery shoppers.

    It is very pleasing to find that James Conant’s legacy lives on, at least in the hearts and corporate practices of Ryan Air. And people thought charging for luggage or bathroom visits couldn’t be done. I do believe that oxygen is indeed next on their ‘upgrade option’ list.

    After 18 long years those Harvard boys had had enough Pusey, and were ready to get back to their coxswaining. It was a dark and damp period for the crimson boys, and times were tight. At least before times had two kids, then times were forced to perform Kegels to get back in shape. I’m just happy that we finally know……the rest of the story.

    On that terrible note, I’ll be done.

    • Scott, rest assured that while this particular series has come to a close, many others will live on and on and on past the point that anyone remembers why I started beating that horse corpse in the first place.

      Why, the Bible itself ought to last until Web 3.0 makes millionaires out of all of us, at which point we just start posting the fuck out of the archives.

      You make some very good points about these various presidents, including their power to send America down an alternate timeline. Too bad they were too ineffective and useless to use their powers for evil.

      I also must thank you for “going there” with Pusey. I was tempted but I thought I’d take the slightly higher road of mocking everything but his last name. I’m sure he appreciates it as he is most likely still alive (no asterisk).

      Wonderful comment, Scott and many thanks for the compliments.

  2. CLT,

    I swear, there is so much wit infused into this post I can barely stand it…which is probably why I’m currently sitting down. Well, that and the fact that I have a weak neck, which means that attaching a string to the sides of my laptop and carrying it around like a portable musical keyboard becomes somewhat uncomfortable after a while.

    But really, that’s neither here nor there.

    Thanks to you, I now understand why our good (old) friend Don is as strong-willed as he is. I also understand why he asked me to sculpt him a pair of binoculars for Christmas, and why his shutters were recently replaced with one-way glass. He said it was for “aesthetic reasons”, but I wasn’t buying it.

    Old men are funny that way.

    As for “Bob and”, I once dated his brother Doug (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bob_and_Doug_McKenzie)and I have to say that the whole debacle doesn’t surprise me. In fact, the only thing that does surprise me is the fact he was even hired in the first place.

    I can only imagine the interview:

    Interviewer: So, Mr. McKenzie, what makes you think you’d make a good president of Harvard?

    Bob and: Hire me hosehead, and I’ll get you all the free beer and sausages you want.

    Interviewer: But what are your qualifications?

    Bob and: Well, I’m Canadian, eh…that and I gotta take a leak so bad I can taste it.

    *Interviewer shuffles papers while Bob and cracks open a beer*

    Interviewer: Well, I hate to say this, but based on the fact that we have no other applicants, I guess you’re hired.

    Bob and: Take off, eh? For real? I swear, if I didn’t have puke breath, I’d kiss you!

    Great post CLT. I await your history on the Presidents of Phoenix University…

    • Thanks for the compliments, bschooled and I have started a prayer chain for your weak neck. It should arrive in 4-6 weeks and can replace your ineffective and sinful piece of string.

      It’s odd that Don gets around so much. I would have thought him a “shut-in for life.” Perhaps this colorful history explains his pointed hatred of the younger folks, who are continually making us fear for the futures of our respective nations while simultaneously giving us the last laugh as we spend their money before they’ve even earned it. (That last part is America only, I think.)

      I see that you have also expanded on my rather weak BJ joke with an appropriately drunken Canadian outlook. This “Bob and” sounds like he’d be fun to party with. It also sounds like you would have to buy all the beer yourself. Kind of a mixed blessing. Like a common-law marriage.

      I was unaware that Phoenix University had presidents, but perhaps they all telecommute. I will check in on this and report back as soon as my made-up schedule allows.

      Great to see you, bschooled.

  3. * http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bob_and_Doug_McKenzie

    • Noted. The extraneous “and” has been duly chastised and made an example of. Now that I’ve ended a sentence in a preposition, the grammar police should be knocking at my door any second now.

      Ah, there they are. And they’ve brought their tasers. Seems excessive but I’m sure they’ll show restraint.

      That’s an interesting side effect. Instant urination. Who knew?

    • I knew.

      (I mean, not to brag or anything)

    • Hahahaha!!!

  4. This series has inspired me to apply for acceptance to Harvard. Sadly they’re in no need of stupid cocks.

  5. Touche!

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