CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (Reuters) — Harvard University chose former U.S. Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers to be its 27th president Sunday, school officials said.
The Harvard Board of Overseers voted in a special session in New York to name the 46-year-old former Harvard economics professor the university's next president, a spokeswoman said.
Professorial and portly, Summers served as secretary of the treasury in the last years of the Clinton administration, taking over from Robert Rubin. He received a doctorate in economics from Harvard in 1982.
"It's good to be home," Summers told reporters at a Harvard news conference.
He takes over from Harvard President Neil Rudenstine, who will step down in June.
Rudenstine is credited with raising a record $2.6 billion for student financial aid, new professorships, new and renovated buildings, and a wide range of educational and research programs during his 10-year tenure.
The sometimes abrasive Summers joined the liberal, Washington-based Brookings Institution after leaving office in January. He was appointed treasury secretary in July 1999 after serving for four years as deputy treasury secretary and two years as undersecretary for international affairs.
Before joining the Clinton administration, Summers served as the World Bank's chief economist from 1991 to 1993, worked on former President Reagan's Council of Economic Advisers, and spent more than a decade in academia at Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
In 1983, at the age of 28, he became the youngest tenured professor in Harvard's history, and in 1993 he won the John Bates Clark Medal, given every two years to the outstanding American economist under the age of 40.
His selection was seen by some Harvard insiders as a compromise.
University of Michigan President Lee Bollinger, 54, had been rumored to be the top candidate for the Harvard job, but Bollinger lacked a Harvard degree and had never taught at the Ivy League school. Harvard Provost Harvey Fineberg was also a contender for the job.
The rough-hewn Summers, who was considered a brilliant teacher, is known to be given to flashes of temper and bouts of disorganization.
Students at Harvard College, where tuition will top $33,000 an academic year in September, protested against his appointment, criticizing what they saw as the secrecy of the selection process.
When asked about the protests, Summers said he planned to meet with some students Sunday night and promised to make himself available in the months before he takes over July 1.
As for the selection process, he smiled and said, "It ill becomes me to criticize the selection process."