This week on December 15, 2022, the distinguished academic and educator Claudine Gay was elected to be the 30th President of the oldest college in America: The Harvard University. The decision was made internally by the Harvard Corporation with the consent of the University’s Board of Overseers and reported by the Harvard Gazette. Gay will take office as the first African American and second female President of Harvard at the end of the current academic year on July 1.
After her election to the highest office of one of the most prestigious institutes of higher learning in the country, Gay was invited to speak to her students on the same day. The announcement was met with thunders of applause from the audience, while Gay herself was equally cheerful in the subsequent address. Not shy to express her feelings, she called Harvard “My intellectual home” and declared: “I love this place … I am deeply invested, not only in what Harvard is today, but also in what Harvard’s leadership means for the future.”
During her address, Gay also thanked her to-be predecessor Mr. Larry Bacow in the following words: “It has been a privilege to work with Larry over the last five years. He has shown me that leadership isn’t about one person. It’s about all of us, moving forward together, and that’s a lesson I take with me into this next journey.” She also said that she was “humbled” by the decision.
The conference was kept strictly apolitical, and to a question about the University policy in case affirmative action is ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, Gay briefly responded: “we will continue to champion the value of diversity, irrespective of how the landscape around that might change.”
The only child born to a couple of highly-educated Haitian immigrants, Gay has spent most of her life in New York. In keeping with the wishes and encouragement of her parents, Claudine Gay received her bachelor’s from Stanford in 1992. A hard worker from the start, Gay was awarded the Anna Laura Myers Prize for her undergraduate thesis in economics, after she went on to receive the Toppan Prize for her Ph.D dissertation studying political behavior.
Gay spend her early career at as an associate professor at Stanford until 2006, when she joined Harvard as a professor of government.
For some time, she also served as a professor of African American studies at the same college. In 2015, Gay was promoted to be the dean of social sciences, before starting her tenure as the Edgerley Family Dean of the ‘Faculty of Arts and Sciences’ (FAS), the largest of its kind at the Ivy League University. She is described by colleagues as “a great person”, with a warm heart and an unrelenting intellect.