Claudine Gay assumes historic role as Harvard University’s first Black president

Claudine Gay Credit: Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer

Harvard University now has its first Black president, Claudine Gay, who already has made her mark in the institution’s history. Gay also stands as only the second woman to helm the university since its founding in 1640 in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

During her inaugural address, Gay articulated her vision for the Ivy League institution, acknowledging the weight and honor of this groundbreaking appointment. “I stand before you today humbled by the prospect of leading Harvard,” remarked Gay amidst a rainy inauguration ceremony last Friday. “Emboldened by the trust you have placed in me and energized by your own commitment to this singular institution and to the common cause of higher education.” The new president went on to emphasize Harvard’s historical role as an agent of change, stating, “The courage of this University — our resolve, against all odds — to question the world as it is and imagine and make a better one: It is what Harvard was made to do,” she exclaimed.

Harvard Corporation, the university’s main governing body, chose Gay after an extensive search process. Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey, who attended Harvard, praised Gay’s presidency in a speech. She called it a “truly historic” moment and expressed her admiration and support. Gay earned her Ph.D. in government from Harvard in 1998 and joined the faculty in 2006. She previously held the distinguished position of Edgerley Family Dean of Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences and is recognized as an expert in political behavior. She also serves as the founding chair of the Inequality in America Initiative which was launched in 2017 to examine social and economic inequalities.

Outgoing president Lawrence Bacow characterized her as “a person of bedrock integrity,” according to CNN. Bacow also expressed confidence in Gay’s “moral compass,” which he said remains essential for guiding the prestigious university. He praised the search committee for choosing Gay and predicted a bright future under her leadership.

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