Claudine Gay has been announced as the 30th President of Harvard University, making her the first Black person and the second woman to lead the Ivy League school.
Gay currently serves as a dean at the university and will assume her position in July 2023. She will replace Lawrence Bacow, who is stepping down to spend more time with family. She was elected to the presidency by the Harvard Corporation, the University’s principal governing board, with the consent of the University’s Board of Overseers, The Harvard Gazette reported.
“She is a terrific academic leader with a keen mind, great leadership and communication skills, excellent judgment, and a basic decency and kindness that will serve Harvard well,” Bacow said. “Perhaps most importantly, she commands the respect of all who know her and have worked with her.”
Penny Pritzker, senior fellow of the Harvard Corporation and chair of Harvard’s presidential search committee, praised Gay’s qualities. “For all her professional accomplishments, even more impressive are Claudine’s personal qualities—her quality and clarity of mind, her broad curiosity about fields beyond her own, her integrity and fair-mindedness, and her dedication to creating opportunities for others. She will be a great Harvard president in no small part because she is such a good person,” Pritzker said.
In her acceptance speech, Gay said the appointment reflected her journey from the child of poor Haitian immigrants who believed firmly in the power of education to a career in academia.
“My parents are immigrants from Haiti. They came to the U.S. with very little and put themselves through college while raising our family,” Gay said. “My mom became a registered nurse and my dad a civil engineer. And it was the City College of New York that made those careers possible. College was always the expectation for me. My parents believed that education opens every door.”
Gay was recruited by Harvard in 2006 as a professor of government. She was also appointed a professor of African and African American Studies in 2007. In 2015, she was named the Wilbur A. Cowett Professor of Government when she also became dean of social science at FAS.
She is reorganized as an influential expert on American political participation, according to Harvard Gazette. Her research and teaching explore how various social and economic factors shape political views and voting behavior, the platform added.
She is the founding chair of Harvard’s Inequality in America Initiative which advances scholarship in the effects of child poverty and deprivation on educational opportunities. She is also a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and was a member of the American Association of Universities advisory board on racial equity in higher education.
Gay received her bachelor’s degree in economics from Stanford University in California in 1992. She got her doctorate degree in government in 1998 from Harvard, where she won the Toppan Prize for the best dissertation in political science. Gay served as an assistant professor and then a tenured associate professor at Stanford before joining Harvard in 2006.