Ethnic origins of presidents of Harvard University

[2007–] Drew Gilpin Faust - Grew up in Virginia. Southern father; New Jersey mother (with some New England ancestry, but also, e.g., German ancestry). Jewish husband.

[2001-2006] Lawrence H. Summers - Jewish. Summers says "WASPs" who wear ties and demand he enforce the honor code are assholes. "Rarely have I encountered such swagger, and I tried to respond in kind."

[1991-2001] Derek Curtis Bok - Born in Pennsylvania. Father's father was a Dutch immigrant; mother's father was born in England. Does have some New England ancestry through other lines, but not exactly a prototypical "Yankee". Married Gunnar Myrdal's daughter.

[1971-1991] Neil L. Rudenstine - "His father was a Russian Jewish immigrant from Kiev, while his mother was Catholic and the daughter of immigrants from Campobasso in Italy."

[1953-1971] Nathan Marsh Pusey - "Pusey was born in Council Bluffs, Iowa, to John and Rosa Pusey." Southern ancestry. "Dr. Pusey, a native of the Midwest, was the first non-New Englander to head the nation's oldest and richest university. [. . .] His father died when he was a year old; his mother, who supported the family as a $65-a-week school principal, taught him the value of study and a need for better salaries for educators. He won a scholarship to Harvard" (New York Times Biographical Service, Volume 32). "Pusey vigorously opposed McCarthyism in the 1950s and supported the U.S. Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. His clashes with Joseph McCarthy were especially significant because Pusey's position at Lawrence College placed him in the senator's hometown (Appleton, Wisconsin) and amid the political power base of the then-conservative Fox Valley." (Wikipedia)

[1933-1953] James Bryant Conant - New England ancestry, but:

Conant never tired of pointing out that despite this lineage, he was not a "proper Bostonian," one of the aristocratic Back Bay and Beacon Hill Brahmins that were so pungently evoked by Cleveland Amory and John P. Marquand, but the offspring of hardworking, middle-income parents, James Scott Conant and Jennett Orr Bryant, who came from small villages in Plymouth country to raise their son and two daughters in the working-class Boston suburb of Dorchester. [James G. Hershberg. James B. Conant: Harvard to Hiroshima and the Making of the Nuclear Age.]
When Conant came into office, Lowell gave him his view of the matter, unchanged from a decade before: "The time has not come for any theoretical solution of the Jewish question. I tried, as you know, to find an open, fair and practical solution, but was howled down by the preference of most people to profess one principle and act upon another. Any educational institution that admits an unlimted number of Jews will soon have no one else."

Conant's pro-quota position in the early 1920s, his preference for more students from small towns and cities and the South and West, and his cool response to the plight of Jewish academic refugees from Hitler suggest that he shared the mild anti-Semitism common to his social group and time. But his commitment to meritocracy made him more ready to accept able Jews as students and faculty. [. . .]

By 1944 over 30 percent of the students in the remaining civilian student houses were Jewish. In calculating the proper size of the wartime class of 1946, the "quota for a certain type" was dropped. The result: about 19 percent of the class was Jewish, the highest percentage since the early 1920s. [. . .]

Still, old demons lurked in the background. After the war ended, the house masters resumed their prewar screening and sharing practices. Not until May 1950 did they agree to take every house applicant and relegate the * designation to history's dustbin. [Morton Keller, Phyllis Keller. Making Harvard modern: the rise of America's university.]

[1909-1933] Abbott Lawrence Lowell - "Lowell was born on December 13, 1856 in Boston, Massachusetts, the second son of Augustus Lowell and Katherine Bigelow Lowell. His siblings included the poet Amy Lowell, the astronomer Percival Lowell, and Elizabeth Lowell Putnam, an early activist for prenatal care. They were the great-grandchildren of John Lowell and, on their mother's side, the grandchildren of Abbott Lawrence.[4] [. . .]

Following Lowell's earlier reform of Harvard's admissions process to increase the admission of public school students, the Jewish proportion of the student body rose from 6% in 1908 to 22% in 1922, at a time when Jews constituted about 3% of the U.S. population. Lowell, continuing to focus on the cohesiveness of the student body, described a campus where antisemitism was growing and Jewish students were ever more likely to be isolated from the majority. He feared—and recent developments at Columbia University supported him—that the social elite would cease sending its sons to Harvard as Jewish enrollment increased. He cited what he saw as the parallel experience of hotels and clubs that lost their old membership when the proportion of Jewish members increased. He proposed limiting Jewish admissions to 15% of the entering class. [. . .]

The faculty committee eventually rejected Lowell's proposed quota. Instead, Harvard's new guiding principle in admissions would be the top seventh rule. Harvard would reach out to youths in smaller cities and towns, even to rural communities, with the guideline that the student place in the top seventh of his class. It would seek "to pick out the best pupils from good schools, here, there, and everywhere." Though some suspected this was nothing but a covert way to decrease Jewish enrollment, the policy had the opposite effect. The numbers of non-Jewish students attracted from the South and West could not match the larger numbers of Jews admitted from the Middle Atlantic and New England states. By 1925, Jews made up 27% of the entering class.[49]

Lowell then found another way to accomplish his goal, this time less publicly. He first won approval from the Harvard Board of Overseers for a new policy that would, in addition to traditional academic criteria, use letters from teachers and interviews to assess an applicant's "aptitude and character," thus introducing discretion in the place of the strict top seventh rule. He even persuaded one doubtful Overseer that this would not support discrimination against Jews as a group, but merely "careful discernment of differences among individuals." When Lowell gained final approval of these modifications in 1926 and appointed a compliant Admissions Committee, he had won his way.[50] When Lowell left his position in 1933, Jews made up 10% of the undergraduate population.[51]"

[1869-1909] Charles William Eliot - "Charles Eliot was a scion of the wealthy Eliot family of Boston, and was the grandson of banker Samuel Eliot. His mother Mary Lyman Eliot had ancestral roots in early Massachusetts Bay Colony as a descendant of Edmund Rice.[1]

[. . .] But instead, he used his grandfather's legacy and a small borrowed sum to spend the next two years studying the educational systems of the Old World in Europe. [. . .] Eliot's approach to investigating European education was unusual. He did not confine his attention to educational institutions, but explored the role of education in every aspect of national life. [. . .] Eliot understood the interdependence of education and enterprise. In a letter to his cousin Arthur T. Lyman, he discussed the value to the German chemical industry of discoveries made in university laboratories. [. . .] During nearly two years in Europe he had found himself as much fascinated by what he could learn concerning the methods by which science could be made to help industry as by what he discovered about the organization of institutions of learning. He was thinking much about what his own young country needed, and his hopes for the United States took account of industry and commerce as well as the field of academic endeavor."


FredR said...

I never knew Bok married Myrdal's daughter. I'd like to read a good essay on just what Myrdal's views on eugenics and nationalism were, exactly.

Hail said...

For 32 of the past 42 years, Harvard has had a president with a Jewish family connection, either by full ancestry, partial ancestry, or marriage. The exception "married Gunnar Mydral's daughter".

Hail said...

For probably the past twenty or thirty years (at least since Ron Unz published his article on Jewish over-representation at the Ivy League in 1998), Jews have outnumbered White-Gentiles at Harvard.

See The Myth of the American Meritocracy.

"In 1922, Harvard's president, A. Lawrence Lowell, proposed a quota on the number of Jews gaining admission to the university. Lowell was convinced that Harvard could only survive if the majority of its students came from old American stock.

Lowell argued that cutting the number of Jews at Harvard to a maximum of 15% would be good for the Jews, because limits would prevent further anti-Semitism. Lowell reasoned,“The anti-Semitic feeling among the students is increasing, and it grows in proportion to the increase in the number of Jews. If their number should become 40% of the student body, the race feeling would become intense.”
Lowell received a great deal of public criticism, particularly in the Boston press. Harvard's overseers appointed a 13-member committee, which included three Jews, to study the university's “Jewish problem.” The committee rejected a Jewish quota but agreed that “geographic diversity”in the student body was desirable. Harvard had been using a competitive exam to determine who was admitted, and urban Jewish students were scoring highly on the exam. Urban public schools such as Boston Latin Academy intensely prepared their students, many of whom were Jewish, to pass Harvard's admissions test. The special committee recommended that the competitive exam be replaced by an admissions policy that accepted top-ranking students from around the nation, regardless of exam scores. By 1931, because students from urban states were replaced by students from Wyoming and North Dakota who ranked in the top of their high school classes, Harvard's Jewish ranks were cut back to 15% of the student body.

In the late 1930s, James Bryant Conant, Lowell's successor as president, eased the geographic distribution requirements..." [source]

Hail said...

Summarizing the numbers from this post and three other sources [an article from the "American Jewish Historical Society" [hosted at the JVL website] and two Ron Unz publications from 1998 and 2012.

Jews at Harvard [Jewish:White-Gentile ratio]
1900: 7% [10-to-133] [JVL]
1908: 6% [10-to-157] [JVL]
1922: 22% [10-to-35] [JVL]
1925: 29% [10-to-25] [Unz 2012]
1925-1926: De facto Jewish Quota adopted
1926: 15% [10-to-56] [Unz 2012]
1931: 15% [10-to-56] [JVL]
ca. 1940: Jewish Quota Lifted
1998: ~30% [12-to-10] [Unz '98]
2011: 26% Jews vs. 18% White-Gentiles vs. 12% Unknown Race [Unz 2012] [14-to-10 based on "known race" numbers. Potentially, the there is Jewish:White-Gentile numerical parity if we assume that the "unknown race" students are highly-disproportionately White Gentiles. However, the ethnic-ancestry of the White-Gentile students will have been very different from those of the Lowell era. A 2010s Jewish:White-Protestant ratio would be lopsided in favor of Jews, probably at least 2-to-1].

Note: The ratios, other than 1998 and 2011, assume a <1% Nonwhite enrollment in the first half of the 20th century