Harvard names Claudine Gay as first black president

Daughter of Haitian immigrants, social scientist serving as dean of arts and sciences promises to bring new commitment to interdisciplinary achievement

十二月 15, 2022
Claudine Gay
Source: Harvard University
Claudine Gay, president of Harvard University

Harvard University has named its first black president, Claudine Gay, a daughter of Haitian immigrants and a social scientist serving as dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.

Professor Gay is due to take office in July, replacing Lawrence Bacow, who has served since 2018 as head of the US’ oldest university.

An expert on American political participation and advocate of interdisciplinary science, Professor Gay was elected to the presidency by the Harvard Corporation, the university’s principal governing board, after a five-month search.

“As her many admirers know,” board member Penny Pritzker, the billionaire former US secretary of commerce who led the presidential search committee, said in announcing the choice, “Claudine consults widely; she listens attentively; she thinks rigorously and imaginatively; she invites collaboration and resists complacency; and she acts with conviction and purpose.”

Professor Gay reiterated her commitment to cooperation across the university, calling the approach essential to solving the most critical global challenges. “Today, we are in a moment of remarkable and accelerating change – socially, politically, economically, and technologically,” she said in the university's announcement. “So many fundamental assumptions about how the world works and how we should relate to one another are being tested.”

Professor Gay has been dean of arts and sciences since 2018, after serving as dean of social sciences since 2015. She was recruited to Harvard from Stanford University in 2006 to become a professor of government, and also became a professor of African and African American studies. She earned her bachelor’s degree in economics from Stanford and her doctorate in government from Harvard.

As dean of arts and sciences, Professor Gay led the creation of one of the world’s first doctoral programmes in quantum science and engineering. She is the founding chair of Harvard’s Inequality in America Initiative, a multidisciplinary effort specialising in areas such as child poverty and its effects on education, and inequities in science education.

Harvard said that nearly 1,000 members of the university community participated in 30 advisory committee listening sessions as part of the presidential search process.

The university's announcement of Professor Gay as president included a comment from Ruth Simmons – selected by Brown University in 2001 to be the first black president of an Ivy League institution – who said it “demonstrated a commitment to ensuring that Harvard remains not only the preeminent university in the world but also the university that leads with increasing relevance to the world today”.

Professor Bacow, a former president of Tufts University and chancellor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technologyannounced in June his plans to step down after a relatively short five-year term. He gave no specific reason, though the university’s oldest incoming president noted the pressures caused by Covid throughout higher education.




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