AMBRIDGE, Mass., March 11 — Harvard University named Lawrence H. Summers, the former treasury secretary, as its 27th president today, choosing a scholar who has spent the decade as a leader in globalization and who vowed to recommit the university to undergraduate education.
Mr. Summers, 46, is seen as one of America's brightest economic minds, a man with deep roots in academia, strong ties to the corporate world, extensive international connections and a colorful record in government. He listed among his priorities the undergraduate experience, science and interdisciplinary programs and the recruitment of top young minds to the faculty.
"The two most important things for our country, and for the world, are the way in which we educate young people and the creation of new ideas," Mr. Summers said in a telephone interview as he shuttled today between New York, where he was officially appointed, and his ceremony here on campus.
"My heart has always been with the work of thought and ideas. That's been the base of my career and that's the world I've always wanted to come back to."
At a news conference in Loeb House, once used as the president's residence, Mr. Summers surveyed the quintessentially Harvard room, with its crimson drapes and crystal chandeliers, and pronounced, "It's good to be home."
Mr. Summers received a Ph.D. from Harvard in 1982, became its youngest tenured professor at 28 and spent a decade teaching at the university. His selection as president ended a secretive nine-month search to succeed Neil L. Rudenstine, who announced last year that he would leave on June 30. Harvard had been one of a group of top institutions, including Princeton, Columbia and New York University, seeking new leaders.
In his decade at the university's helm, Mr. Rudenstine ran a $2.6 billion fund-raising campaign, helping bring Harvard's endowment to $19.2 billion and worked to unite the university's disparate schools. He was criticized, however, as being remote to undergraduate concerns and as a leader who rarely spoke out on issues of national importance.
Now, Harvard, with 15,780 students, confronts the challenge of building a new campus in Boston and redefining its role as technology and globalization transform higher education.
"More than ever, the academy today is connected to the corporate sector," said Judith B. McLaughlin, a professor at Harvard's Graduate School of Education and an authority on university presidencies. "Lawrence Summers is someone who has moved successfully in both arenas and links those two worlds in an important way."
Robert G. Stone Jr., who led the search, said Mr. Summers "embodies a rare combination, as one of the most respected scholars and one of the most influential public servants of his generation."
Born in New Haven to a family with a stellar economics pedigree — his parents are professors at the University of Pennsylvania, and two of his uncles won the Nobel prize in the field — Mr. Summers was awarded the John Bates Clark Medal, given every two years to the outstanding economist under 40, in 1993. He and his wife, Victoria, a tax lawyer, have twin 10-year-old daughters and a 7- year-old son.
Mr. Summers is known for a fierce tennis game — Alan Greenspan, the chairman of the Federal Reserve, is a frequent opponent — and for guzzling Diet Coke. He can be absent-minded, missing flights and misplacing passports.