Harvard Presidential Search Begins

Initial outreach from the senior fellow Penny Pritzker and the search committee

Penny Pritzker, senior fellow of the Harvard Corporation since July 1, today advised the community that the search to select the successor to President Lawrence S. Bacow, who is stepping down next June 30, is formally under way. In an email message issued on behalf of the Corporation and the Board of Overseers, Pritzker wrote to “invite your thoughts on the search for the next president of Harvard University.” 

Adopting language nearly identical to that used in 2017, when the search began that resulted in Bacow’s appointment, Pritzker said the committee especially welcomed community members’ perspectives on:

•the key opportunities and challenges likely to face Harvard and higher education in the coming years and the priorities that our next president should have most in mind;

•the qualities, abilities, and experience most important to seek in the next president; and

•any individuals you believe warrant serious consideration as possible candidates. 

Such comments “will be an essential means for the search committee to develop an increasingly robust and nuanced picture of Harvard, its current trajectory, and its future aspirations—and a fully informed view of the leadership that can best serve the university in the years to come.”

 Her note also echoed, but amplified, the initial traits the search committee outlined in 2017. Today, she wrote,

[W]e will seek a person of high intellectual distinction, with proven qualities of leadership, a devotion to excellence in education and research, a capacity to guide a complex institution through times of change, a talent for advancing progress and collaboration across a wide span of domains, a commitment to embracing diversity along many dimensions as a source of strength, and a dedication to the ideals and values central to our community of learning. We aim to identify a president who, like past Harvard leaders, will bring not only a deep devotion to Harvard’s excellence, but also a passion for how Harvard—through its myriad programs and extraordinary people—can be a force for good in the world.  

The last part of that description echoes one of Bacow’s signature themes—and, no doubt, a wider concern that, with higher education increasingly under attack, elite research universities like Harvard clarify their contributions to the public’s well-being. 

As expected, the search committee will form three advisory committees—faculty, students, and staff—and will, with their help, gather “input from a wider array of faculty, students, staff, and other academic personnel—as well as from alumni, leaders in higher education, and others well-positioned to offer thoughtful counsel,” she wrote. “We aim to reach out broadly to benefit from wide-ranging perspectives on Harvard and higher education as well as to build an inclusive pool of nominations.”

Members of the community are invited to share their thoughts by:

•emailing to [email protected];

•responding to questions posted at a website; or

•addressing letters to Harvard Presidential Search Committee, Loeb House, 17 Quincy Street, Cambridge, MA 02138.

The search committee’s membership includes the dozen fellows of the Corporation other than the president, plus three members of the Board of Overseers: Paul Choi ’86, J.D. ’89, a lawyer who is the board’s president this year, plus Carla A. Harris ’84, M.B.A. ’87, vice chair of wealth management at Morgan Stanley, and Tyler Jacks ’83, Koch professor of biology at MIT.

Read more about the search, including the full text of today’s community message, at the presidential search home page.

Read more articles by: John S. Rosenberg

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