Learn more about Lawrence Summers
Lawrence Henry ("Larry") Summers (born November 30, 1954) is an American economist and academic. He was Secretary of the Treasury for the last year and a half of the Clinton administration, and served as the 27th President of Harvard University from 2001 to 2006.
In three instances during his time as Harvard president, Summers made remarks that touched on political "hot-button" controversies. Environmentalists, affirmative action advocates, and many women and those concerned with women's issues took offense and brought increasing pressure on Harvard, possibly contributing to his resignation.
Summers resigned as President of Harvard on June 30, 2006, and was replaced by former University President Derek Bok as acting Interim President the next day. Summers has accepted an invitation to return to the University following a planned sabbatical for the 2006-07 academic year as one of Harvard's select University Professors. Separately, as announced on October 19, 2006, he became a part-time managing director of D.E. Shaw & Co.
 Early life
Born in New Haven, Connecticut on November 30, 1954, Summers is the son of two economists – both professors at the University of Pennsylvania – as well as the nephew of two Nobel laureates in economics: Paul Samuelson (sibling of father Robert Summers, who, following an older brothers example, changed the family name from Samuelson to Summers) and Kenneth Arrow (his mother Anita Summers's brother). He spent most of his childhood in Penn Valley, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Philadelphia, where he attended Harriton High School.
At age 16, he entered the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where he originally intended to study physics but soon switched to economics (B.S., 1975). He was also an active member of the MIT debating team. He attended Harvard University as a graduate student (Ph.D., 1982), where he studied under economist Martin Feldstein. He has had stints teaching at both MIT and Harvard. In 1983, at age 28, Summers became one of the youngest tenured professors in Harvard's history. Recently, in December 2005, Summers married a Harvard English professor, Dr. Elisa New.
Summers has three children by his first wife, Victoria Perry: identical twins Pamela and Ruth, and son Harry.
 Professional life
 Academic economist
As a researcher, Summers has made important contributions in many areas of economics, primarily public finance, labor economics, financial economics, and macroeconomics. To a lesser extent, Summers has also worked in international economics, economic demography, economic history, and development economics. His work generally places emphasis in the analysis of empirical economic data in order to answer well-defined questions (for example: Does saving respond to after-tax interest rates? Are the returns from stocks and stock portfolios predictable?, Are most of those who receive unemployment benefits only transitorily unemployed?, etc.) For his work he received the John Bates Clark Medal in 1993 from the American Economic Association (an honor economists often consider as prestigious as the Nobel Prize). In 1987 he was the first social scientist to win the Alan T. Waterman Award from the National Science Foundation. Summers is also a member of the National Academy of Sciences. In line with most Clark medalists (who historically have gone on to win the Nobel in Economics should they live long enough), Summers was considered a contender for nomination prior to his controversial presidency at Harvard.
 Public official and educational administrator
From 1999 to 2001 he served as Secretary of the Treasury, a position in which he succeeded his long-time political mentor Robert Rubin. In 2001, he left the Treasury and returned to Harvard as its President.
Summers is a zealous proponent of free trade and globalization, and frequently takes positions on a number of politically-charged subjects outside his specialty. This, compounded by his support for Andrei Shleifer, a Harvard economist who settled a multi-million dollars insider trading scandal, and his brusque, confrontational style of management, made him controversial as President of Harvard, particularly among his colleagues in the humanities and social sciences.
 World Bank Pollution Memo
In December 1991, while at the World Bank, Summers signed a memo written by staff economist Lant Pritchett which argued among other things (according to its author; the full memo is not public) that free trade would not necessarily benefit the environment in developing countries. An "ironic aside" made an argument that, in fact, the developed countries ought to be exporting more pollution to those developing countries. This aside was leaked to the media as a serious, standalone memo, and a public outcry ensued.
 Cornel West
In the fall of 2001 the US national media focused their attention on a private meeting in which Summers criticized prominent African-American Studies professor Cornel West, for missing too many classes, contributing to grade inflation, neglecting serious scholarship, and devoting too much time to political activism and spoken-word poetry. West, who later called Summers both uninformed and "an unprincipled power player" in describing this encounter in his book Democracy Matters (2004), subsequently returned to Princeton University, where he taught prior to Harvard University.
 Anti-Israel attitude among academics
In 2002, Summers stated that a campaign by Harvard and MIT faculty to have their universities divest from companies with Israeli holdings was part of a larger trend among left-leaning academics that is "Anti-Israeli in effect, if not in intent."
 Differences between males and females
In January 2005, Summers suggested, at an NBER Conference on Diversifying the Science & Engineering Workforce, that many factors outside of socialization could explain why there were more men than women in high-end science and engineering positions. He raised the point that it could be related to innate ability, or innate preference. An attendee made his remarks public, and a firestorm followed in the national news media and on Harvard's campus, which incorrectly implied that Summers argued that men are somewhat more intelligent than women on average. The transcript of the speech can be found here: http://www.president.harvard.edu/speeches/2005/nber.html
 Summers' opposition and support at Harvard
On March 15, 2005, members of Harvard's Faculty of Arts and Sciences, which instructs graduate students in GSAS and undergraduates in Harvard College, passed 218-185 a motion of "lack of confidence" in the leadership of Summers, with 18 abstentions. A second motion that offered a milder censure of the president passed 253 to 137, also with 18 abstentions. 
The lack of confidence measure is different from a "no-confidence" vote, which in the British parliamentary system causes the fall of a government, and it has no formal effect on the president's position. The members of the Harvard Corporation, the University's highest governing body, are in charge of the selection of the president and issued statements strongly supporting Summers.
FAS faculty were not unanimous in their comments on Summers. Influential psychologist Steven Pinker defended the legitimacy of Summers's January remarks. When asked if Summers' remarks were "within the pale of legitimate academic discourse," Pinker responded "Good grief, shouldn’t everything be within the pale of legitimate academic discourse [...] There is certainly enough evidence for the hypothesis to be taken seriously." 
In July 2005, the only African-American board member of Harvard Corporation, Conrad K. Harper, resigned saying he was angered both by the university president's comments about women and by Summers being given a salary increase. (Some reports suggest Harper's support of Summers may have first started to erode earlier because of the Cornel West controversy.) The resignation letter to the president said, "I could not and cannot support a raise in your salary, ... I believe that Harvard's best interests require your resignation."  
 Support of economist Andrei Shleifer
Harvard and Andrei Shleifer, a close friend and protege of Summers, settled a $26M case with the government over the conflict of interest Shleifer had while advising Russia's privatisation program. Summers's continued support for Shleifer hastened Summers's unpopularity with other professors:
"I’ve been a member of this Faculty for over 45 years, and I am no longer easily shocked," is how Frederick H. Abernathy, the McKay professor of mechanical engineering, began his biting comments about the Shleifer case at Tuesday’s fiery Faculty meeting. But, Abernathy continued, "I was deeply shocked and disappointed by the actions of this University" in the Shleifer affair, which was detailed in a lengthy magazine article that jolted many professors out of their reading period slumber.
In an 18,000-word article in January's Institutional Investor (2006), the magazine detailed Shleifer’s alleged efforts to use his inside knowledge of and sway over the Russian economy in order to make lucrative personal investments, all while leading a Harvard group advising the Russian government that was under contract with the U.S. The outgoing University president is a close friend of Shleifer, and the article suggests that Summers shielded his fellow economist from disciplinary action by the University. However, the case actually was filed in 2000, the year before Summers became Harvard's president. Summers's friendship with Shleifer was well-known by the Corporation which selected him to succeed Rudenstine and Summer recused himself from all proceedings with Shleifer, whose case was actually handled by an independent committee led by Derek Bok.
 Other factors in the opposition to Summers
While many in the media have focused upon the controversial statements made by Summers or his political disagreement with left-leaning members of the faculty, it is also possible that these factors merely provided a pretext for members of the faculty to express their dissatisfaction with other aspects of Summers's presidency.
Besides the aforementioned controversies, which undoubtedly provided the proximate cause for Summers's resignation, other factors have been proposed as contributing to his critical loss of support among the majority of faculty members. The first is Summers's reputed leadership style, described by many as arrogant, blunt, and intolerant of dissenting opinions. Many faculty members claimed they felt intimidated into remaining silent when they disagreed with Summers. Along the same vein, several prominent administrators abruptly left (or were forced to leave) their positions during Summers's tenure: Dean of the College Harry T. Lewis, Associate Dean of the College David P. Illingworth, Dean of Freshmen Elizabeth Studley Nathans, and finally Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences William C. Kirby. Another factor that has been proposed is a supposed substantive disagreement about the structure and philosophy of the undergraduate curriculum, amidst an intensive curricular review initiated during Summers's term.
 Resignation as Harvard President
On February 21, 2006, Summers announced his intention to step down at the end of the school year effective June 30, 2006. Since then, former University President Derek Bok has acted as Interim President while the University searches for a replacement. Summers has been invited and agreed to return to the University following a planned sabbatical for the 2006-07 academic year as Charles W. Eliot University Professor, one of twenty select "University-wide" professorships, with offices in the Kennedy School of Government and the Harvard Business School.<ref>Schuker, Daniel J. T.. "Summers Named Eliot Univ. Prof", The Harvard Crimson, 7 July 2006.</ref>
In October 2006, the D. E. Shaw Group announced that Summers would serve as one of their part time managing directors. <ref>Burton, Katherine. "Summers, Former Treasury Secretary, Joins D.E. Shaw", Bloomberg, 19 Oct 2006.</ref>
- Clinton, Bill (2005). My Life. Vintage. ISBN 1-4000-3003-X.
- Finder, Alan and Kate Zernike (February 21, 2006). Harvard President Has Decided to Resign, Officials Say. New York Times
- How Larry Got His Rep, The Harvard Crimson, 2005-03-03, a long background piece on how the press spun the controversies around Summers
- ↑ Template:Cite journal
 External links
- Who Is Larry Summers? BusinessWeek, May 24, 1999.
- How the Great Brain Learned to Grin and Bear it Slate, June 29, 2001.
- Renaissance Man The Guardian, October 5, 2004.
- Institutional Investor: How Harvard Lost Russia
- Lawrence of Absurdia
- Harvard Radical NY Times, Aug 23, 2003
|World Bank Chief Economist|
|United States Secretary of the Treasury|
Neil L. Rudenstine
|President of Harvard University|
| United States Secretaries of the Treasury
<td style="vertical-align: middle; width: 1px" rowspan="2"> Image:US-DeptOfTheTreasury-Seal.png </td>
|Hamilton • Wolcott • Dexter • Gallatin • Campbell • Dallas • Crawford • Rush • Ingham • McLane • Duane • Taney • Woodbury • Ewing • Forward • Spencer • Bibb • Walker • Meredith • Corwin • Guthrie • Cobb • Thomas • Dix • Chase • Fessenden • McCulloch • Boutwell • Richardson • Bristow • Morrill • Sherman • Windom • Folger • Gresham • McCulloch • Manning • Fairchild • Windom • Foster • Carlisle • Gage • Shaw • Cortelyou • MacVeagh • McAdoo • Glass • Houston • Mellon • Mills • Woodin • Morgenthau • Vinson • Snyder • Humphrey • Anderson • Dillon • Fowler • Barr • Kennedy • Connally • Shultz • Simon • Blumenthal • Miller • Regan • Baker • Brady • Bentsen • Rubin • Summers • O'Neill • Snow • Paulson|