Yale names Stony Brook’s Maurie McInnis as president

Alumnus and trustee to become Ivy League institution’s first non-interim female leader after narrowly avoiding faculty censure at Stony Brook

May 29, 2024
Maurie McInnis
Source: Yale University, Dan Renzetti
Maurie McInnis

Yale University has chosen Maurie McInnis, a Yale graduate and trustee currently leading Stony Brook University, as the Ivy League institution’s first non-interim female president.

Professor McInnis, an art historian specialising in the politics of slavery, was named to the Yale presidency barely two weeks after Stony Brook’s faculty narrowly rejected a bid to censure her over her handling of their anti-war campus protests.

She will take the Yale presidency in July, succeeding Peter Salovey, who led the institution for 11 years.

Professor McInnis was selected after a nine-month search process that identified her chief attributes as including fundraising skills, national perspectives on higher education and respect for Yale’s mission and traditions.

The head of the university’s trustees, known formally as the Yale Corporation, said the search that led to Professor McInnis was exhaustive. “She has lived up to the mission of our university, leading “with an unshakeable commitment to education and research for the common good”, said Joshua Bekenstein, a founder of the investment firm Bain Capital who heads the Yale Corporation.

In her own comment on the appointment, Professor McInnis told the Yale community that her top priority as president would be “to reconnect with those I know and to meet so many more of you”. She said that she planned listening sessions and individual meetings in the coming months involving students, faculty, staff and alumni.

Both Yale and Stony Brook are among dozens of US colleges and universities that have had that communication tested in recent months in the aftermath of Israel’s military assault on civilians in Gaza, and the ongoing attempts by US congressional Republicans to demand that US campus presidents suppress expressions of opposition to such violence.

At Yale, police arrested 48 demonstrators, nearly all of them students, after a three-night campus encampment to protest against university ties to the weapons industry. At Stony Brook, 29 people, including two professors, were arrested in similar actions.

Stony Brook’s faculty senate, in response to that crackdown, considered the censure resolution against Professor McInnis and rejected it by a vote of 55 to 51.

Stony Brook, with about 25,000 students about 60 miles west of New York City, is part of the State University of New York system. It’s a top US research institution, with key assets that include a major academic medical centre and an operational role in the Brookhaven National Laboratory.

During Professor McInnis’ four years leading Stony Brook, the university won a $500 million (£400 million) donation from the Simons Foundation and was named the anchor institution of a $700 million New York Climate Exchange research centre.

Yale officials said their presidential search involved more than 120 nominations. The university’s search committee had eight members of the governing corporation and four faculty members, and took advice from a student council.

Professor McInnis’ selection by Yale demonstrates “the esteem with which Stony Brook is viewed by its peers”, John King, the chancellor of the State University of New York system, said in a statement.

Professor McInnis came to Yale in 1989 as a graduate student in the department of the history of art. Before Stony Brook, she served as provost at the University of Texas at Austin and as an administrator at the University of Virginia.

Yale’s previous female president, Hanna Holborn Gray, served on an interim basis in 1977 and 1978.


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