GREAT GOOD FORTUNE: How Harvard Makes Its Money by Carl A. Vigeland

GREAT GOOD FORTUNE: How Harvard Makes Its Money

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A conversational, hagiographic, dull foray into the personalities who tend to Harvard's huge endowment, but unlikely to interest many besides Harvard's own alumni (if that) and those with curiosity for university administration. Despite the swift encroachment of various Texas universities, Harvard's endowment remains the largest at more than two billion. How it has amassed so much, with its vigorous campaigns and alumni loyalty, and how it manages to increase it (mostly on Wall Street) is indeed an intriguing story. Were it told, that is. Unfortunately, it seems, university officials keep their methods guardedly secret. Vigeland (an Harvard alumnus) presents little information that could be called news. His figures are few and farther between and, when they do arise, are sometimes trivial, like the cost per person of a filet mignon dinner at the Harvard Club of Boston in 1984: $16.50. With little financial data, Vigeland resorts to personality profiles of the men who in the past 20 years have managed both Harvard's image and its money: former president Nathan Pusey, treasurer George Putnam, assistant treasurer George Siguler, Wall Street whiz Bing Sung, former Dean Henry Rosofsky and President Derek Bok (see above). Vigeland too frequently indulges in analogies between Bok and President Reagan and between the recent $300 million Harvard Campaign and the CIA (Harvard keeps extensive and confidential portfolios on its wealthy alumni). Even the most stalwart Harvard grad will find such remarks hard to swallow. The most interesting story here is of the necessary transformation Harvard has made since the 1960's, from a genteel Brahmin-run university to a modern management corporation complete with its own hired army of Wall Street savants. This is the story Vigeland would like to tell, but he hasn't the information for it. Although the book purports to be an insider's view, it remains very much that of an outsider.

Pub Date: Aug. 20th, 1986
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin