The President and Fellows of Harvard College (also known as the Harvard Corporation) is the more fundamental of Harvard University's two governing boards. (The other is the Harvard Board of Overseers.) On 9 June, 1650, at the request of President Henry Dunster, the Great and General Court of Massachusetts (i.e., the colonial legislature) issued the body's charter, making it the oldest corporation in the western hemisphere. (Note that although Harvard is today generally referred to as a "University" the corporation's legal title still formally refers to "Harvard College.")
When it was originally founded, the corporation was probably intented to be a body of the college's resident instructors, like the fellows of an Oxbridge college. However, from an early date it instead fell into what has become the familiar American model of a governing board -- an outside body, made up mostly of people not involved in Harvard's daily life, which meets regularly to consult with the day-to-day head, the president (whom it appoints). It is self-perpetuating, selecting new members for itself whenever a vacancy opens; in recent years it has always comprised six fellows in addition to the president.