Tuesday, January 31, 2023
HomeAfrica & the DiasporaAFTER ROUGHLY 400 YEARS, HARVARD ANNOUNCES HER FIRST BLACK PRESIDENT

AFTER ROUGHLY 400 YEARS, HARVARD ANNOUNCES HER FIRST BLACK PRESIDENT

“The idea of the ‘ivory tower’ – that is the past, not the future of academia. We don’t exist outside of society, but as part of it,” she said. “That means that Harvard has a duty to lean in, engage and to be of service to the world.”

Those are the statements voiced by Claudine Gay, as she hit another milestone in the progression of her academia. It was in the recent week the Harvard management announced her as the 30th president of the Ivy League school. Since 2018, she has been the Dean of Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Science. She is also the founding chair of Inequality in America Initiative at the school, with credible years of studies on the effects of child poverty, educational deprivation and inequalities as touching America and the global space.

Gay grew up as the child of Haitian immigrants, who made her way to the top through years of hard work. She became a graduate of Stanford University with a B. A. in Economics in 1992. It only took roughly six years after to earn her Ph.D. in Government from Harvard, receiving the University’s Toppan Prize for best dissertation in Political Science.

Serving from 2000 to 2006 as an assistant professor, then as an associate professor at the department of Political Science in Standford, she became a  professor of Government and of African and African-American Studies in Harvard, less than a decade after. Over time, her research interest has bordered on the issues surrounding race, politics and identity in America. And, she has maintained a certain level of clout as far as the status quo of global scholarship is concerned.

Announcing her in the recent week as the new president of the school was no surprise, considering her annals of academic strokes and triumphs. At the same time, it yet met with gaping mouths, being the first Black woman to assume such a position in the roughly 400-year history of the school and also the second woman after the trail-blazing footstep of Drew Gilpin Faust. And, by July 1, 2023, she will have officially resumed her tenure as a successor of Lawrence S. Bacow, the current president.

According to him, “Claudine is a person of bedrock integrity. She will provide Harvard with the strong moral compass necessary to lead this great university. The search committee has made an inspired choice for our 30th president. Under Claudine Gay’s leadership, Harvard’s future is very bright.”

And, in a statement, Bacow added: “She is a terrific academic leader with a keen mind, great leadership and communication skills, excellent judgment, and a basic decency and kindness that will serve Harvard well. Perhaps most importantly, she commands the respect of all who know her and have worked with her.”

As per Harvard Gazette , this was later buttressed by Penny Pritzker, a senior fellow in Harvard Corporation and the chair of Harvard’s presidential search committee— “Claudine is a remarkable leader who is profoundly devoted to sustaining and enhancing Harvard’s academic excellence, to championing both the value and the values of higher education and research, to expanding opportunity, and to strengthening Harvard as a fount of ideas and a force for good in the world.”

And, in her acceptance speech, it was with experience and prospect she affirmed the primacy of cooperation as she officially picks up this tenure in the coming year, acknowledging the legacy of Bacow.

“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 added: “As I start my tenure, there’s so much more for me to discover about this institution that I love. And I’m looking forward to doing just that, with our whole community.”

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