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Presidential Search Process


The selection of Claudine Gay as the 30th president of Harvard University marks the culmination of an intensive and wide-ranging search launched in July 2022, shortly after Larry Bacow announced his plans to step down from the presidency at the end of June 2023.

In accordance with the University charter of 1650, ratified by the Massachusetts Constitution of 1780, a new president is elected by the Harvard Corporation (formally known as the President and Fellows of Harvard College), with the counsel and consent of the University’s Board of Overseers. The Board of Overseers consists of 30 members who are elected by holders of Harvard degrees, with the president and treasurer of the University as ex officio members.

As in Harvard’s three most recent presidential searches, a search committee was formed comprising the members of the Corporation other than the president (who excused himself from the search and election process, consistent with past practice), together with three members of the Board of Overseers.

The committee initiated the search with an email sent in July 2022 to more than 400,000 individuals — including all Harvard faculty, students, staff, and alumni, and selected leaders in higher education and research, government, and the nonprofit sector. The email sought advice on the opportunities and challenges facing higher education and Harvard, as well as the most important qualities to seek in a new president; it also invited nominations of individuals warranting consideration.

Starting in July 2022, the committee undertook an extensive process of interviews and meetings with individuals and groups throughout the Harvard community, in the wider world of universities and colleges, and beyond.  Members of the committee consulted individually with more than 150 people inside and outside Harvard. In addition, committee members met with dozens of groups of faculty, alumni, and others across the Harvard Schools.

Essential to the process were the efforts of three advisory committees, consisting of faculty, students, and staff. The 15-person faculty advisory committee included members from each of the University’s faculties and was chaired by Archon Fung, the Winthrop Laflin McCormack Professor of Citizenship and Self-Government and faculty director of the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. The 18-person student advisory group included members from each of the University’s degree-granting Schools and was chaired by Christopher Cleveland, a Ph.D. student in education with three previous degrees from Harvard. The 17-person staff advisory committee included members from across the University’s Schools and central administration departments and was chaired by Meredith Weenick, the University’s executive vice president. Throughout the fall term, each of the committees took active part in extending the process of outreach to the wider University community, in conducting meetings among themselves and soliciting input from others, and in providing valuable counsel to the search committee on the diverse perspectives and concerns of the University’s core campus constituencies.

In addition to the many outreach sessions undertaken by members of the three advisory committees, members of the search committee also gathered advice through meetings with faculty leadership groups in each of Harvard’s faculties, with University-wide and School-based groups of leading alumni, with University Professors, and with tenure-track faculty, among others.

The search committee received more than 1,500 written replies to its request for advice and nominations. It was presented with more than 600 nominees for consideration. The committee met formally some 20 times, for two hours and often longer, before concluding its work. In the latter stages of the search, the full committee or subgroups of the committee met at length with various leading nominees from both inside and outside Harvard and learned more about them through contacts with people familiar with their work.

The search committee, including its Overseer members, met with the full Board of Overseers at the Board’s regular meetings during the search to brief the Overseers on the progress of the search and to invite their continuing counsel. Finally, on December 15, 2022, at a meeting of the governing boards, the Corporation elected Claudine Gay as the University’s next president, effective July 1, 2023, and the Board of Overseers voted its consent. 

The members of the presidential search committee were:

  • Timothy R. Barakett, A.B. ’87, M.B.A. ’93, chair, TRB Advisors;
  • Kenneth I. Chenault, J.D. ’76, chair and managing director, General Catalyst Partners, and former chair and CEO, American Express;
  • Paul Choi, A.B. ’86, J.D. ’89, partner, Sidley Austin LLP;
  • Mariano-Florentino “Tino” Cuéllar, A.B. ’93, president, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and former justice, Supreme Court of California;
  • Paul J. Finnegan, A.B. ’75, M.B.A. ’82, co-CEO, Madison Dearborn Partners;
  • Carla A. Harris, A.B. ’84, M.B.A. ’87, senior client adviser, Morgan Stanley, and former chair, National Women’s Business Council;
  • Tyler Jacks, A.B. ’83, Koch Professor of Biology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and president, Break Through Cancer;
  • Carolyn “Biddy” Martin, president emerita, Amherst College, and president-in-residence, Harvard Graduate School of Education;
  • Karen Gordon Mills, A.B. ’75, M.B.A. ’77, former administrator, U.S. Small Business Administration, senior fellow, Harvard Business School, and president, MMP Group;
  • Diana L. Nelson, A.B. ’84, co-chair, Carlson Holdings, and former chair, Carlson;
  • Tracy Pun Palandjian, A.B. ’93, M.B.A. ’97, CEO and co-founder, Social Finance;
  • Penny Pritzker (chair), A.B. ’81, founder and chair, PSP Partners, and former U.S. Secretary of Commerce;
  • David M. Rubenstein, co-founder and co-chair, The Carlyle Group;
  • Shirley M. Tilghman, LL.D. (hon.) ’04, president emerita and professor of molecular biology and public affairs, Princeton University;
  • Theodore V. Wells Jr., J.D. ’76, M.B.A. ’76, partner, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP.