University Acting President, Henry Rosovsky, Dies at aged 95, Wife and Family

Leading economist and creative administrator Henry Rosovsky, who twice held the positions of dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and acting president of the university, passed away on November 11 at his Cambridge, Massachusetts, home. He was 95.

When Rosovsky joined the Harvard faculty in 1965, he was instrumental in developing the university, including the revolutionary Core Curriculum of the time and the Department of African and African American Studies that exists today.

The Geyser University Professor Emeritus and former chair of the Economics Department, Rosovsky, was a devoted family man and a supporter of Harvard Hillel. His most-cited book, “The University: An Owner’s Manual,” published in 1991, recounts these transformative developments as well as his philosophical wrestling with important questions about things like tenure and admissions.

Tributes to Henry Rosovsky.

“Henry was rightly recognized as one of the foremost figures in academia, authoring the definitive work on universities and their complexities. An exceptional scholar of Japan and its economy, he was deeply respected by faculty and colleagues, and he had a unique perspective on Harvard, serving as dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, as a member of the Harvard Corporation, and as acting president,” said Harvard President Larry Bacow. “His legacy continues to influence the experience of every person on our campus today.

“I first got to know Henry Rosovsky while president of Tufts,” he said. “He was wonderfully generous with his time and his advice and became — in all of the years since — both an invaluable counselor and a dear friend. He was, above all, committed to the idea of higher education as a pathway for discovery, knowledge, and opportunity.”

That commitment inspired the students, staff, and faculty he worked with every day, Bacow added: “Henry will be remembered as one of the most influential individuals in the history of the institution.”

Claudine Gay, Edgerley Family Dean, recalled Rosovsky as at once “a legendary figure at Harvard and a kind and generous man.”

“I will never forget our lunch together in my first weeks as dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. I brought along my dog-eared copy of the ‘Owner’s Manual,’ where he had chronicled his witty and wise insights about the inner workings of universities from his service in the same role. He was generous with his time, counsel, and good humor, and I continue to cherish both the memory and the wisdom he shared with me.”

Henry Rosovsky’s early life and education.

Henry Rosovsky was 95 years old. Rosovsky, who was born in the Free City of Danzig in 1927, emigrated to the United States with his family in 1940 in order to flee the Nazis, who had taken over Poland the year before.

Henry Rosovsky Family

They had a difficult journey that began in Belgium and continued through France, Spain, and Portugal before arriving in Hoboken, New Jersey, and New York. As a member of the U.S. Army’s Counterintelligence Corps, Rosovsky would travel back to Europe in 1945 to witness the Nuremberg Trials.

Using the G.I. Bill, he finished his undergraduate studies at the College of William and Mary in 1949 before rejoining the military to fight in the Korean War. His feet froze during the Yalu retreat as a result of that deployment, and he was given a Purple Heart.

Henry Rosovsky’s career.

American economist and academic administrator Henry Rosovsky was the dean of Harvard University’s faculty of arts and sciences. After a career as an East Asian economic historian, Rosovsky was appointed dean by Harvard President Derek Bok in 1973. He held office from 1973 to 1984 and once more from 1990 to 1991.

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In 1984 and 1987, he also served as Harvard’s interim president. Rosovsky joined the Harvard Corporation in 1985 and served as a member until 1997. He did it for the first time in a century by a member of the Harvard faculty.

In addition to serving as the department’s chair, Rosovsky was a professor of economics. He is a retired professor at Geyser University. He is wed to novelist and retired former curator of the Harvard Semitic Museum Nitza Rosovsky. Leah, Judith, and Michael, their three children, were born to them jointly. Leah Rosovsky was chosen to serve as the Boston Athenaeum’s Stanford Calderwood Director in May 2020.

Henry Rosovsky’s wife and children.

Henry Rosovsky was married to the author and retired former curator of the Harvard Semitic Museum, Nitza Rosovsky. The couple together has 3 children.