Derek Curtis Bok (born 1930) served as dean of the Harvard Law School until he was named president of Harvard University in 1970. In this position he helped broaden the university's mission in its relationship to the larger community while retaining its tradition of intellectual and academic excellence.
Bok went to the Harvard law school in 1958 as an assistant professor specializing in antitrust and labor law. He was lured to Harvard by one of his professors, Kingman Brewster, who later became president of Yale. Bok became a full professor in 1961 and was named to succeed Erwin Griswald as dean of the Harvard law school in 1968. His leadership began at a time of great student unrest, and he wasted little time in initiating reforms to meet the changing needs of students and society. He affirmed the link between the law school and wider concerns of racial unrest, the Vietnam War, and a perceived confidence gap between students and institutions. Symposia on Vietnam issues, increased minority recruitment, emphasis on success of lower ranking students, and emphatic opposition to Nixon Supreme Court nominee Harold Carswell were a few of his activist initiations as dean. His style and deliberate manner were tested by both faculty and students in a series of confrontations and resulted in respect for his ability as a mediator and problem solver. Bok's reputation soon became one of firm decision-making and of unwavering keeping of commitments.
Unrest over admission and hiring policies precipitated a presidential letter in 1981 which publicly committed Bok to developing a strong minority presence at Harvard. ibility in major corporations, law firms, teaching hospitals, and agencies of government.