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Harvard University announced Claudine Gay would become the school’s 30th president. Gay, a current dean at the university, will be the first Black president in Harvard’s nearly 400 year history.
A faculty member since 2006, Gay has already left an indelible mark on the school. She joined nearly two decades ago as a professor of African and African American studies. Since then, she has become one of Harvard’s leading minds in the study of inequities and their impact on American democracy.
During her time at the university, Gay founded Harvard’s inequality in America initiative. This effort focuses on understanding how longstanding disparities like child poverty and lack of quality education affect America’s standing on a global stage.
In her acceptance speech, Gay made clear that she wants Harvard’s role in American education to be increasingly inclusive.
“The idea of an ‘ivory tower’, that is the past, not the future of academia,” Gay said. “We don’t exist outside of society, but as a part of it… Harvard has a duty to lean in, engage and be of service to the world.”
Incoming Harvard president lauded by colleagues
Gay’s colleagues have been quick to sing her praises as the news was announced. Outgoing president Lawrence Bacow called Gay “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.”
President Bacow went on to say that, most importantly, “she commands the respect of all who know her and have worked with her.”
When she takes office on July 1, 2023, Gay will also be the only Black president of any Ivy League school and the first Black woman to lead any of the nation’s top institutions. For the first time in the history of the Ivy Leagues, women will hold the role of president at a majority of the eight schools.