Education: Insider Out Front

James McNaughton Hester, 37, could almost star in a play titled How to Succeed in Education Without Really Trying. He is not a practicing scholar, never taught a class, and has been a college administrator for only four years. But he has so much inborn ability that people keep pressing him to take better jobs. Last week he became the youngest president in the 130-year history of 43,000-student New York University, biggest private university complex in the U.S. Not until he got the job was Hester even sure that he wanted to stay in education.

The son of a Navy chaplain, Hester...

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