“Gay is the first Black person and second woman to lead the Ivy League school,” reports CBS. The 52-year-old “will also oversee Harvard’s $100 million effort to redress its early ties to slavery,” per The Boston Globe.
The daughter of Haitian immigrants, Gay “earned her Ph.D. from Harvard in 1998.” She was also the recipient of “the Toppan Prize for best dissertation in political science.”
After starting out her career in management consulting, Gay realized that her true calling was in academia. She started out as a government professor at Stanford before her alma mater woo’ed her back to the east coast.
A member of the Harvard faculty since 2006, Gay has spent the majority of her career with the prestigious university. She has held a leadership position for almost a decade. Most recently, Gay served as Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Edgerley Family Dean.
Harvard, is often at the forefront of issues in higher education, demonstrated by the recent affirmative action Supreme Court case. City University of New York chancellor Félix V. Matos Rodríguez, who spoke at today’s ceremony echoed this sentiment. “Harvard’s president is often expected to speak on behalf of the entire sector.”
The ceremony took place in the midst of a rainy Cambridge day in Tercentenary Theatre at Harvard Yard. And everyone on hand literally showered Gay with praise.
“This is not an easy task given the diversity of the institutions that comprise the higher education landscape in the U.S., but if someone is profoundly capable and unmistakably ready to do this — it is President Claudine Gay,” said Matos Rodríguez. He continued, “I have no doubt that she will represent all of us in higher education with passion, integrity, and vision.”
During his remarks, Tracy “Ty” Moore, President of the Harvard Alumni Association, joyfully exclaimed, “President Gay, you got this! And we got you!”
Maura Healey, the governor of Massachusetts was also on hand extending her congratulations. Healey stated “President Gay, your achievements as a scholar and a leader are pathbreaking and remarkable, as befits this great University.”
“Having gotten to know you personally, I believe your wisdom and integrity, your humane and inclusive vision make you a leader for our time,” continued Healey.
“The work that we do together matters,” said Healey, “And for that reason, we could not be more pleased to see President Gay rise to this position. She is a leader driven by her values.”
Harvard Corporation Senior Fellow Penny S. Pritzker presented the 30th president with “the Charter granted to Harvard College in 1650 by the General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.”
After taking a seat in the Holyoke Chair, the official Harvard president chair, a tradition dating back to the 1700s, Gay took the stage. Gay started off acknowledging the inclement weather, but unapologetically quipped that she wasn’t going to shorten her speech.
“I stand before you today humbled by the prospect of leading Harvard, 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,” said Gay.
“Courage abides in a kind of purposeful detachment. Admitting our fears and false steps, even as we advance…In courage we find freedom where we dare to imagine and make a different future together,” proclaimed Gay. “Let us summon the courage to be the Harvard, the world needs now.”