Philip Lovejoy to Step Down as Harvard Alumni Leader
Alumni Association executive director announces retirement at end of 2022.
Philip W. Lovejoy, executive director of the Harvard Alumni Association (HAA) since July 2014, today announced his retirement from the post at the end of this year, concluding a quarter-century of Harvard service. The news follows the most recent quarterly HAA directors’ meeting, which concluded this past weekend, and precedes the June 3 debut of the newly named Harvard Alumni Day: the first in-person version of the reshaped HAA annual meeting, formerly conducted during afternoon exercises on Commencement day.
In his message to colleagues, Lovejoy said:
My time at Harvard has been a highlight of my life. At the HAA and at Harvard I am blessed with exceptional colleagues who are among the most accomplished professionals in the industry. The volunteers engaged in our work are a boundless source of inspiration and friendships. All these gifted people are a joy to work with and I learn from them every day.
Throughout my 8-year tenure as executive director, and during the 18 years I have worked at the HAA, we have collectively accomplished much to be proud of. When I assumed the position of executive director from the legendary Jack Reardon, my friend and mentor, my focus was to ensure the HAA be an adaptive and responsive organization. That is no easy feat, it takes constant attention, but I believe we have accomplished that together.
Lovejoy, a graduate of Trinity College, came to Harvard in 1998 to run the Museum of Natural History’s travel program, and then in 2005 became leader of the alumni association’s extensive travel operations (of late, much curtailed by the pandemic). He held several HAA positions before becoming deputy executive director, and succeeded Jack Reardon as executive director in 2014. He said then, “My father, Class of 1951, has been a committed friend, volunteer, and supporter of Harvard for over 60 years. His love for and belief in Harvard left an indelible mark on me. Like my father, my mentor and predecessor Jack Reardon, and all our volunteers, I have an unending appreciation for Harvard, and I am energized and honored to have this thrilling opportunity to engage our alumni ever more deeply with Harvard.”
In Happy Days: Reflections of Commencements Past (recently published by HAA), a collection of essays about the graduation rites gathered during the past two years of online celebrations, Lovejoy wrote about the first of his “many memories and feelings” about Commencement: “It was 1976 and my father’s twenty-fifth reunion. My brothers and I were staying in Wigglesworth Hall.…We were scurried away somewhere for a kids’ program (I was just 15)….But I do remember the excitement around Commencement—and in particular my father’s excitement at sitting on the stage.” Subsequently, beginning with his museum service 22 years later, Lovejoy wrote, he was “struck by the convergence of tradition and modernity” that the ceremonies embody.
He has since had a long career delivering those ceremonies annually and adapting them for an increasingly diverse and far-flung alumni body. He led the HAA during most of the alumni-engaging Harvard Campaign, which involved frequent, large gatherings around the world. Because HAA’s nominating committee presents slates of candidates for the Board of Overseers and HAA elected directors annually, Lovejoy played a lead role in encouraging education about the candidates and about Harvard governance—especially during the recent elections that were contested by petition candidates—and in encouraging alumni to vote. Possibly reflecting Lovejoy’s and HAA’s outreach efforts, as well as the contested nature of the campaigns and the adoption of online balloting, participation increased markedly during the past two elections. Now, in his final months of service, he is effecting the reorganization of the academic year-end events, with Commencement day focusing on the graduates, honorands, and guest speaker, and the separate Harvard Alumni Day (also with a guest speaker) devoted to alumni and their reunions.
Reflecting on his tenure as executive director in 2019, Lovejoy noted that essentially all current undergraduates were born within the new millennium—yet “then there are the folks coming back for their seventieth reunion, who were born in the ‘Roaring Twenties.’” Few organizations serve people “aged 19 to 109,” he adds: “That’s why it’s so important that we embrace our traditions and build upon past generations. But we also always have to look to where we’re going and what the needs are going to be, because there’s no question that society is going through radical transformations.” And how, given what has transpired since the spring of 2020. Withal, he said, The HAA can play a very important role, as it always has, “to bring alumni together for the good of the institution and society.” He has very much seen to that.
During the pandemic, Lovejoy has worked principally from New Hampshire, where his father, George M. Lovejoy Jr., an ardent conservationist, assembled the Blue Hills Foundation, an 8,000-acre working land trust; Philip was actively involved in its management. George Lovejoy died in late March 2020, just days after Harvard closed campus operations in response to the pandemic. In retirement from the HAA, Philip plans to devote his energies to his Harvardian father’s perpetual commitment to land conservation and sustainable forest-resource management.
(Both Philip Lovejoy and Jack Reardon serve as directors of Harvard Magazine Inc.)