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Governance Letter from President and Senior Fellow

Dear Members of the Harvard Community,

We are pleased to announce today a set of forward-looking changes involving the Harvard Corporation.  They grow out of an intensive governance review in which the Corporation, joined by distinguished colleagues from the Board of Overseers, has benefited from expert outside advice and from thoughtful input offered by people across the Harvard community.

While our governance review committee has focused on concrete aspects of the Corporation’s role and work, our wide-ranging discussions have underscored something more fundamental.  Those of us privileged to serve on the Corporation have responsibility for the stewardship of a University extraordinary in its reach and its aspirations, in its restless ambition to excel and to serve, and in its capacity for beneficial impact on a world that increasingly depends on the education, research, and ideas that universities are singularly suited to offer.

At a time when many different parts of Harvard have been reflecting on their roles and how best to fulfill them, all of us on the Corporation have thought this an opportune moment to step back and think purposefully about our own responsibilities and structures.  And at a time when the world presents Harvard with opportunities as exciting as they are complex, we have challenged ourselves to consider how the Corporation, created in the mid-17th century, can assure the capacities needed to guide and serve our vastly larger, more ambitious, and more diverse University in the 21st.

With this in mind, we plan to move ahead with several significant changes, described more fully in the accompanying report. To enhance the Corporation’s collective capacity and breadth, we will nearly double its present size, from seven to 13 members.  To assure a balance of continuity and fresh perspective, we will adopt prescribed periods of service for the Corporation’s fellows.  To deepen focus in areas of core fiduciary concern, we will form new Corporation committees on both capital planning and finance.  To assure systematic attention to aspects of the Corporation’s role, priorities, and effectiveness, we will create a standing Corporation committee on governance and also reinforce the senior fellow’s role.  To amplify efforts in another key domain as we prepare for a University campaign, we will launch a joint committee of the governing boards on alumni affairs and development.  And we will continue to strengthen the complementary activities and interactions of the two boards.

More generally but no less consequentially, the Corporation intends to structure its time and its work with a more conscious focus on matters of long-term strategic salience for Harvard as a whole — among them, the efforts to encourage the productive interplay of the University’s distinctive parts.  We will also take steps to keep the University community better informed about the essence of the Corporation’s work, and seek further opportunities to learn from members of the community about their experiences, their ideas, and their aspirations for the University, whose vitality and progress are our shared concern.

We undertake these changes knowing that one of Harvard’s most enduring ideals and essential characteristics is a willingness to adapt and change.  In pursuing these changes for the Corporation, we take inspiration from being part of a community whose members, now and across centuries, have been willing and eager to envision new possibilities for themselves and for Harvard, for the world of ideas and for the larger society we serve.
We hope you will read the accompanying report with interest. We are confident that the changes it describes will serve Harvard well.

Drew Faust, President
Robert D. Reischauer, Senior Fellow