The Dick Thornburgh Papers

The collection

Director, Institute of Politics, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, (1987–1988)

Extent: 35 linear feet

Thornburgh served as the director of the Institute of Politics at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government from June 1987 until August 1988. When unexpectedly named attorney general of the United States by President Reagan in July 1988, he resigned after but one year in Boston.

As Thornburgh’s second term as governor of Pennsylvania was coming to an end, he was faced with the necessity of finding a job, because Pennsylvania law limits governors to two four-year terms. The task, as it turned out, was not a difficult one, as Thornburgh received three notable opportunities. U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz asked him to become the administrator of the Agency of International Development and Attorney General of the U.S., Edwin Meese, proposed his directorship of the FBI. Thornburgh turned down both of these offers, stating, “I had no strong desire to take on the important AID responsibility toward the end of the Reagan administration, and the 10-year term of the FBI appointment called for a commitment I was not ready to make” (Evidence, p. 196).

The third opportunity presented an intriguing prospect for Thornburgh and was the offer he ultimately accepted. In November 1986 he had attended a conference at the Institute of Politics (IOP) at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. He shortly thereafter received a call from retiring Director Jonathan Moore during which Thornburgh was asked if he was interested in the directorship. He was interviewed and subsequently named director in January 1987. The announcement of his appointment called Thornburgh “a very successful governor and practicing politician who, like President John F. Kennedy, whom the Institute memorializes, has a deep personal commitment to public life and government as a high calling.” After moving to Boston to take on this new position, he also rejoined his former law firm, Kirkpatrick and Lockhart, which had opened an office in Boston.

IOP, for Thornburgh, was a “unique and fascinating place” (Evidence, p. 197). It gave him a chance, as the first director that had been an elected public official, to encourage students to consider careers in politics and government. As he told the Harvard University Gazette in an introductory interview, he could “instill in students more enthuiasm for the electoral process and a recognition that ‘holding public office ... is an honorable profession.’ ... If during my tenure here I can divert a dozen or so of the best and brightest Harvard students from careers in investment banking into the electoral process, I’d consider it a job well done” (Evidence, p. 197).

Thornburgh was involved in all facets of IOP including serving as advisor to students, selecting and arranging for Institute fellows each semester, initiating fund-raising for programs, and writing articles, in addition to planning IOP workshops, programs, and conferences. The files include speeches, pre-directorship research about IOP, news releases, Thornburgh’s director files, events and schedules, correspondence, clippings, and articles.

In addition to these specific IOP files, researchers should note that we have other material from the same year, although it is not directly related to IOP. There are files relating to Thornburgh’s boards of trustees positions and concurrently his association with his law firm, Kirkpatrick and Lockhart, during this same year in Boston. Here as well are files about Ginny Thornburgh’s work at Harvard as coordinator of programs for persons with disabilities. These files are related to the IOP files only in that they were produced in the same short time period, making it relevant to group these separate yet simultaneously produced materials together.

There are twelve sections here: "Speeches"; "Predirectorship IOP Research"; "News Releases"; "Harvard, John F. Kennedy School, and IOP"; "Director’s Files"; "Events"; "Schedules"; "Correspondence"; "Clippings and Articles"; "Boards and Memberships"; "Kirkpatrick and Lockhart"; and "Ginny Thornburgh at Harvard."


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