Romney still wanted to pursue a business path, but his father advised him that a law degree would be valuable to his career. Thus he became one of only fifteen students to enroll at the recently created joint Juris Doctor/Master of Business Administration four-year program coordinated between Harvard Law School and Harvard Business School.
One of the most exclusive clubs in academe is a Harvard University dual-degree program allowing graduate students to attend its law and business schools simultaneously, cramming five years of education into four. On average, about 12 people per year have completed the program — the overachievers of the overachievers — including a striking number of big names in finance, industry, law and government.
"[Romney] was an outstanding recruit with exceptional grades, and he was the very charming, smooth, attractive son of a former presidential candidate," Faris [a representative of Boston Consulting Group] says. "So everybody was bending over backward to get their hands on him."
Like the president, the former Massachusetts governor is a graduate of Harvard Law School. Unlike the commander-in-chief, Romney also has a second Harvard graduate degree, in business.
“I didn’t learn about the economy just reading about it or hearing about it at the faculty lounge at Harvard,” Romney, 65, said on March 18 in Illinois.
Harvard's joint MBA/JD program was relatively new at the time - it had been launched two years earlier - and was intensely rigorous. Typically, business school is completed in two years and law school in three; dual-degree students earn both degrees in four years, spending their first year at one of the schools, their second at the other, and their final two shuttling between both.
Romney's privileged pedigree was common knowledge to many of his classmates at Harvard Business School and Harvard Law School, where he was simultaneously enrolled through a joint degree program. But he was only one of many children of the wealthy, the politically influential, and the corporate elite who populated the campus. His business school class included the son of Kurt Waldheim, the United Nations secretary general, and Michael Darling, whose family gave Darling Harbour in Sydney its name.
Romney had a simplicity and straightforwardness that seemed distinctly Midwestern. “More like a farm boy than a sophisticated New Yorker,” [Garret Rasmussen, a classmate of Romney] says. “That was the impression. Not that he’s dumb, not that he’s naive. It’s more that he’s a country boy more than a city sophisticate.”
Anger over the war in Vietnam was at full throttle in 1971, when Romney began his first year at Harvard Law School... Just two years before Romney arrived, students protesting Harvard’s stance on the war had taken over an administration building in Harvard Yard. Police eventually stormed in with billy clubs and Mace to arrest them, and that incident was still a fresh memory for the often cynical and skeptical student body. Not Romney. “Mitt was dramatically different from that,” recalls Garret Rasmussen, one of Romney’s law school classmates. “He was entirely positive, entirely enthusiastic, not a complaint in the world. He thought it was wonderful to be at law school."
In the classrooms where Mr. Romney distinguished himself, there were no “right” answers — no right questions even, just a daily search for how to improve results. The Mitt Romney classmates knew then was a gifted fix-it man, attuned to the particulars of every situation he examined and eager to deliver what customers wanted. “Mitt never struck me as an ideologue outside matters involving church and family,” said Howard Brownstein, a classmate. “He is a relativist, a pragmatist and a problem solver.”
From 1971 to 1975, [Romney] simultaneously earned business and law degrees from Harvard. When he arrived, he was the son of a Republican luminary — George W. Romney, who had run the American Motors Corporation before becoming governor of Michigan — who was still insecure about his own talents, according to family members, former classmates and professors. When he graduated, he was an academic star and a hot recruit, convinced he could play on a bigger field than he had previously dreamed.