Bruce Stanley Kovner’s family came to Brooklyn, New York, in the early 1900s from Tsarist Russia, fleeing from persecution. Bruce Kovner grew up in the San Fernando Valley, where his father had moved with the family in 1953. From the start he was a high achiever, and became a Merit Scholar.
He was the student-body president of Van Nuys High School at age 16, and a good basketball player. In 1962, Bruce Stanley Kovner started at Harvard College. He was a good student and was well liked by his classmates. Kovner studied political economy at the Harvard John F. Kennedy School of Government, under prominent conservative scholar Edward C. Banfield, who reportedly had great faith and admiration for the young Bruce Kovner.
Kovner did not complte his Ph.D., having suffered a case of writer’s block when he overreached in his choice of subject matter. During the next few years, he engaged in a number of activities; he worked on political campaigns, studied the harpsichord, was a writer, and worked as a cab driver. It was during the latter occupation, not long after his marriage to Sarah Peter, that he discovered commodities trading.