Harvard Business School dean Kim B. Clark, who over the past decade has focused the school on ethics, technology, global commerce, and entrepreneurship, yesterday said he will resign on July 31 to become the president of Brigham Young University-Idaho.
Clark's surprise decision to leave an institution often regarded as the pinnacle of American business education for a little-known Mormon school in Rexburg, Idaho, was driven by personal and religious considerations, the 56-year-old dean said at a news conference yesterday before flying west to meet with BYU students and faculty.
''I have felt for some time that 10 years is a good time for deans," Clark said, noting that he took up his current Harvard post in October 1995 and will be attending his 10th commencement this week.
Harvard plans to name an interim business school dean before the end of July and to form a committee to search inside and outside the university for a permanent successor, said university president Lawrence H. Summers. Summers said it was unlikely, however, that a permanent dean would be installed by the start of the school year in September.
Clark, who is a Mormon, said he received a phone call on May 25 from Gordon B. Hinckley, the president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, who offered him the job at church-run BYU-Idaho. The former two-year junior college was known as Ricks College until 2001, when it was renamed and accredited as a four-year institution.
After talking with Hinckley for only a few minutes, Clark said, he accepted the job. Then he called Summers, a friend for nearly 30 years, and told him he was departing. The two have known each other since 1976 when they were graduate students in Harvard's economics department. And while he said he disagreed with Summers on some issues, Clark publicly defended Summers' leadership last winter during the uproar over the Harvard president's suggestion that innate aptitude is a factor in women's underrepresentation in science and engineering.
Summers, who joined Clark in breaking the news to business school faculty members yesterday, praised his leadership at the press conference afterward. Last year, Summers had introduced Clark at a California event as Harvard Business School ''dean for life." But when asked yesterday if he had attempted to change Clark's mind about leaving Harvard for Idaho, Summers said he made only a brief effort because he recognized the depth of Clark's religious commitment.
''It became clear to me I was the president of Harvard," Summers said. ''And the president of Kim's church had spoken."
In a Brigham Young University statement, Steve Wheelwright, senior associate dean for publications, said Clark was a perfect choice to build BYU-Idaho: ''He has always had this philosophy that education and learning is about seeking truth. He always asks himself, 'Is this consistent with the gospel? Is this what the scriptures teach?' "
During his 10 years at the Harvard Business School helm, Clark has presided over a 20 percent growth in faculty and a more than tripling of its endowment to $1.8 billion, from $550 million. He boosted investment in technology, opened research centers around the world, and introduced new course offerings in entrepreneurship and values. Starting last year, the business school revamped its ethics instruction in a bid to grapple with the wave of misconduct that swept the corporate world earlier in the decade. A prominent alumnus, former Enron president Jeffrey K. Skilling, was implicated in the financial abuse.
Clark, who grew up in eastern Washington state and Utah, arrived at Harvard when he was 18 and has spent more than 35 years there, earning bachelor's, master's, and PhD degrees. In addition to serving as the business school dean, he is a professor of administration and has been a Harvard faculty member since 1978. He has done research and published books on technology, competition, productivity, product development, and operations. He and his wife, Sue Clark, live in Belmont and have seven children and six grandchildren.
''If the president of my church had not called me on the 25th of May, we would not be here," Clark told reporters yesterday. ''I have been very happy being the dean of our business school. I think it's one of the great jobs in the world, and I love this university."
Robert Weisman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.