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Professor of Law, 300th Anniversary University Research Professor, Former President of Harvard University, Lawyer, Author

JD, Harvard Law School; MA, George Washington University; BA, Stanford University

Author of: Underachieving Colleges (2005); Universities in the Marketplace (2003); The Trouble With Government (2001); The Shape of the River (1998, with William G. Bowen); The State of the Nation (1997); Universities and the Future of America (1990); Higher Learning (1986); Beyond the Ivory Tower (1982)

Dr. Derek Bok, 300th Anniversary Research Professor at Harvard University, served two terms as President of Harvard in the modern era: 1971–1991 and 2006–2007 (as interim). During his 20-year term, among other accomplishments, Bok restructured the university’s central administration and oversaw the creation of a Core Curriculum that became the framework of undergraduate education.

Before his presidential appointment, Bok taught law classes at Harvard beginning in 1958 and then became Dean of the Law School in 1968. Although that period of time was marked by violent confrontations between students and the administration, Bok was already popular with students when he became president, and his leadership style fostered an atmosphere of greater cooperation and communication. In 1975, he established the Danforth Center for Teaching and Learning to explore innovations in undergraduate education. The center was renamed the Bok Center in 1991.

Born and raised in Pennsylvania, he attended a progressive school founded by his mother and then the UCLA Lab School, before going to Stanford for his bachelor’s degree. Following law school, he was named a Fulbright Scholar and studied at Paris’s Institute of Political Science. Bok continues to teach at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. He once served as the faculty chair at the Hauser Center for Nonprofit Organizations at Harvard as well as chaired the Spencer Foundation, which seeks to improve education around the world.

Bok has a long-standing interest in the teaching of ethics, and his article in the October 1976 issue of Change, “Can Ethics Be Taught?” is considered a seminal statement on the subject. The impetus for the Center for Ethics and Professions at Harvard comes from his efforts to develop an awareness of ethical issues in teaching and research.

He and his wife, writer and philosopher Sissela Myrdal Bok, have two daughters and one son.
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