2021 Harvard Medalists

Harvard alumni honored for extraordinary service to the University

Three headshots, of Harvard Medalists Walter K. Clair, Nancy-Beth Gordon Sheerr, Preston N. Williams
From left to right: Walter K. Clair, Nancy-Beth Gordon Sheerr, Preston N. WilliamsPhotographs courtesy of HAA.

At its virtual annual meeting on June 4, the Harvard Alumni Association honored three alumni with Harvard Medals for their extraordinary service to the University.

Walter K. Clair ’77, M.D. ’81, M.P.H. ’85, a committed leader and mentor, served on the University’s Board of Overseers from 2009 to 2016, and was a member of the Joint Committee for Alumni Affairs and Development from 2011 to 2015. Clair currently serves as professor of clinical medicine at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine and is vice chair for diversity and inclusion in the department of medicine.

A profoundly dedicated leader, deeply respected mentor, and true University citizen whose warmth and heartfelt kindness radiate from Nashville to Cambridge, you have fostered collaboration across Schools and lifelong engagement among alumni, strengthening the quality of education at Harvard, inspiring young scholars to pursue and improve the practice of medicine, and expanding opportunities for all students.

Nancy-Beth Gordon Sheerr ’71 chaired the Radcliffe College Board of Trustees from 1990 to 1999 and was instrumental in creating the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, where she continues to serve on the Dean’s Advisory Board. In 2010, she was honored with the HAA Award. A former senior financial advisor at Veritable L.P., she serves as an independent trustee for families and the Value Line Funds.

Over decades of unwavering service, you have demonstrated visionary leadership and extraordinary devotion to the University, helping to orchestrate the successful merger of Radcliffe and Harvard, supporting the creation of the Radcliffe Institute as an unrivaled space for multidisciplinary study, and galvanizing generations of alumni volunteers in support of the Harvard community.

Preston N. Williams, Ph.D. ’67, has dedicated his life to working for social and racial justice, and has supported belonging and inclusion for all scholars and students at the University. The first tenured African American member of the Harvard Divinity School (HDS) faculty and the first to lead HDS, when he was acting dean from 1974 to 1975, he was also the founding director of Harvard’s W.E.B. Du Bois Research Institute. Now Houghton professor of theology and contemporary change emeritus, Williams earned his master of sacred theology degree from Yale Divinity School and was an associate at Mather House from 1973 to 2018.

Esteemed scholar, beloved educator, and spiritual leader, for more than 50 years you have tirelessly championed the cause of racial justice and expanded Harvard’s diversity of scholarship, pushing the Divinity School and the University at large to center equity and inclusion as bedrock values, bridging opportunity gaps, and increasing possibilities for all students and faculty.

Published in the print edition of the July-August 2021 issue (Volume 123, Number 6), under the headline “The Harvard Medalists.”

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