Dr. Claudine Gay, a distinguished scholar of democracy and political affairs, will become the first Black president in the history of Harvard University. Her tenure as the 30th president of the school begins on July 2023.

According to the Harvard Gazette, Gay has served as the Edgerley Family Dean of Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) since 2018. In her role as dean, she oversaw the biological and physical sciences and engineering, the social sciences and the humanities and arts. The department is also the University’s largest and most academically diverse faculty.

After the formal announcement, Gay expressed her gratitude and excitement about her new role at the nation’s oldest university.

“I am humbled by the confidence that the governing boards have placed in me and by the prospect of succeeding President Bacow in leading this remarkable institution,” she said in a statement. “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.”

“Today, we are in a moment of remarkable and accelerating change—socially, politically, economically, and technologically,” she continued. “So many fundamental assumptions about how the world works and how we should relate to one another are being tested. 

“Yet Harvard has a long history of rising to meet new challenges, of converting the energy of our time into forces of renewal and reinvention,” she added. “With the strength of this extraordinary institution behind us, we enter a moment of possibility, one that calls for deeper collaboration across the University, across all of our remarkable schools. There is an urgency for Harvard to be engaged with the world and to bring bold, brave, pioneering thinking to our greatest challenges."

Penny Pritzker, senior fellow of the Harvard Corporation and chair of Harvard’s presidential search committee, lauded Gay as a renowned scholar and a highly regarded leader in higher education.

“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,” Pritzker said. “As the Edgerley Family Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences since 2018, and previously as dean of social science, Claudine has brought to her roles a rare blend of incisiveness and inclusiveness, intellectual range and strategic savvy, institutional ambition and personal humility, a respect for enduring ideals, and a talent for catalyzing change. She has a bedrock commitment to free inquiry and expression, as well as a deep appreciation for the diverse voices and views that are the lifeblood of a university community.” 

Born to Haitian immigrants, Gay graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Stanford, where she majored in economics in 1992 and she was awarded the Anna Laura Myers Prize for best undergraduate thesis. She earned her Ph.D. in government from Harvard where she won the Toppan Prize for best dissertation in political science in 1998.

Gay began her academic career as an assistant professor and then tenured associate professor at Stanford.  Returning to Harvard in 2006, she was named professor of government and in the Department of African and African American Studies in 2007. 

In 2015, she was named the Wilbur A. Cowett Professor of Government.

Outgoing president Larry Bacow gave Gay a glowing endorsement when the news of her election was announced.

“Over the last five years, Claudine and I have worked very closely together,” said Bacow. “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.