Derek Bok

Derek Bok
25th President of Harvard University
In office
Preceded by Nathan M. Pusey
Succeeded by Neil Leon Rudenstine
President of Harvard University
In office
July 1, 2006  June 30, 2007
Preceded by Lawrence Summers
Succeeded by Drew Gilpin Faust
7th Dean of Harvard Law School
In office
Preceded by Erwin Griswold
Succeeded by Albert Martin Sacks
Personal details
Born Derek Curtis Bok
(1930-03-22) March 22, 1930
Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania
Height 6'0" (1.83m)
Spouse(s) Sissela Bok
Children Hilary Bok
Alma mater Stanford University
Harvard Law School
George Washington University
Profession Lawyer

Derek Curtis Bok (born March 22, 1930) is an American lawyer and educator and the former president of Harvard University. He is the son of Pennsylvania Supreme Court justice Curtis Bok and Margaret Plummer Bok;[1] the grandson of Ladies' Home Journal editor Edward W. Bok and Mary Louise Curtis Bok Zimbalist, founder of the Curtis Institute of Music; the cousin of prominent Maine folklorist Gordon Bok; and the great-grandson of Cyrus H. K. Curtis, founder of the Curtis Publishing Company, publisher of national magazines such as The Saturday Evening Post.

Life and career

Bok was born in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. Following his parents' divorce, he, his mother, brother and sister moved to Miquon, Pennsylvania. He attended The Miquon School, a progressive school that his mother co-founded in 1932, and the UCLA Lab School.[2] He graduated from Stanford University (B.A., 1951), Harvard Law School (J.D., 1954), attended IEP Paris, and George Washington University (A.M., 1958).

Bok taught law at Harvard beginning in 1958 and served as dean of the law school there (1968–1971), in succession to Erwin Griswold on Griswold's becoming Solicitor-General of the United States, and then as the university's 25th president (1971–1991), in succession to Nathan M. Pusey. In the mid-1970s Bok negotiated with Radcliffe College president Matina Horner the "non-merger merger" between Harvard and Radcliffe Colleges that was a major step in the final merger of the two institutions. Bok currently serves as the faculty chair at the Hauser Center for Nonprofit Organizations at Harvard and continues to teach at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and Harvard's Kennedy School of Government.

Bok's focus on undergraduate education was evident in his initiating the Harvard Assessment Seminar that resulted in Richard J. Light's best-selling book, Making the Most of College: Students Speak Their Minds (Harvard University Press, 2001).[3][4] This focus has continued in Bok's extensive publications since retiring as President of Harvard. For example, he was the recipient of the 2001 University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award in Education for his book, The Shape of the River: Long-Term Consequences of Considering Race in College and University Admissions, co-authored with the former President of Princeton University, William G. Bowen.[5] Bok has been honored with the naming of the Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning at Harvard[6] and the Harvard Extension School instituting the Derek Bok Public Service Prizes, an annual Commencement prize for the Harvard extension school students who involve in community service or who have a long-standing records of civic achievement.[7]

After fifteen years away from the Harvard presidency, Bok led the University on an interim basis from Lawrence Summers's resignation on July 1, 2006, until the beginning of the tenure of Drew Gilpin Faust on July 1, 2007.

Bok's wife, the sociologist and philosopher Sissela Bok, née Myrdal (daughter of the Swedish economist Gunnar Myrdal and the politician and diplomat Alva Myrdal, both Nobel laureates), is also affiliated with Harvard, where she received her doctorate in 1970. His daughter, Hilary Bok, is a philosophy professor at Johns Hopkins University.



  1. "Derek Curtis Bok Biography". Retrieved 2015-07-23.
  2. "Alva Myrdal: A Daughter's Memoir - Sissela Bok". Google Books. 2007-06-01. Retrieved 2015-07-23.
  3. "Harvard Gazette: Light illuminates better teaching strategies". 2001-03-08. Retrieved 2015-07-23.
  4. Richard J. Light. "Strengthening Colleges and Universities : The Harvard Assessment Seminars" (PDF). Retrieved 2015-07-23.
  5. "2001 - William G. Bowen and Derek Bok". Retrieved 2015-07-23.
  6. "Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning". Retrieved 2015-07-23.
  7. "Honors and Prizes | Harvard Extension School". Retrieved 2015-07-23.
  8. "Who Is Happy and When? by Thomas Nagel | The New York Review of Books". 2010-12-23. Retrieved 2015-07-23.
Wikiquote has quotations related to: Derek Bok
Academic offices
Preceded by
Nathan M. Pusey
President of Harvard University
Succeeded by
Neil L. Rudenstine
Preceded by
Lawrence H. Summers
President of Harvard University

1 July 2006–30 June 2007
Succeeded by
Drew Gilpin Faust
Preceded by
Erwin Griswold
Dean of Harvard Law School
Succeeded by
Albert Martin Sacks
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