Harvard University announced yesterday that William F. Lee, a nationally known Boston lawyer with deep roots in the university, has been elected to the Harvard Corporation, the institution’s principal governing body.
Lee, who is co-managing partner of the Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr law firm that employs 1,000 lawyers, will join the seven-member Harvard Corporation July 1, when James R. Houghton, 73, its longest-serving member, steps down after 15 years of service.
Lee, twice named one of the 100 most influential lawyers in America by the National Law Journal, graduated from Harvard in 1972 and taught courses at Harvard Law School for about five years. He served for six years on the Harvard Board of Overseers, the 30-member consultative body elected by university alumni.
In a phone interview yesterday, Lee noted that as a Board of Overseers member he served on two joint committees with the corporation — the audit committee and the presidential search committee that chose Drew Gilpin Faust to succeed Lawrence Summers in 2007 — so he has worked with the seven current members of the corporation, which is led by Faust and picks new members when vacancies occur.
Lee said his overriding priority will be to keep all the institutions that make up Harvard innovative.
“Harvard is the most unique and extraordinary institution in the world,’’ he said, “but . . . there’s also a lot of inertia that comes from age and traditions.’’
Lee said his years of focus on intellectual property legal issues have made clear to him “there is nothing more important than the area of science and technology,’’ and he would work to make sure that Harvard is at the forefront of both those fields.