Kenneth C. Frazier and Joseph Y. Bae to Join Harvard Corporation
Will succeed David M. Rubenstein and Paul Finnegan
Kenneth C. Frazier J.D. ’78 and Joseph Y. Bae ’94 will become fellows of the Harvard Corporation, the senior governing board, the University announced today in a message to the community. Frazier will begin his service on February 7, 2024, filling the vacancy created last June, when private-equity executive and philanthropist David M. Rubenstein stepped down. Bae will join the Corporation on July 1, 2024, when he takes up the vacancy arising at the end of this academic year with the planned retirement of Paul J. Finnegan ’75, M.B.A. ’82. Their election comes at a pivotal moment, given the January 2 resignation of President Claudine Gay after only six months in office, and the appointment of Provost Alan M. Garber as interim president. Amid continuing fallout from the campus divisions prompted by the response to the October 7 Hamas terrorism against Israel and the ensuing war in Gaza, the Corporation and Board of Overseers face significant challenges in identifying a new University leader and effecting a transition in Massachusetts Hall.
Frazier, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Philosophical Society, is former chairman and CEO of biopharmaceutical enterprise Merck & Co., where he was initially hired as general counsel. Prior to joining Merck, he was a partner at Philadelphia law firm Drinker Biddle & Reath. Currently chair of health assurance initiatives at General Catalyst, a venture capital firm (where current Corporation member Kenneth Chenault is chairman and managing director), he is a member of Harvard Law School’s Dean’s Council. He formerly served as a trustee at his undergraduate alma mater, Pennsylvania State University, where he oversaw the Sandusky investigation.
Frazier’s many honors include the Anti-Defamation League’s 2020 Courage Against Hate Award, presented at the Never is Now Summit on Antisemitism and Hate “for using his platform to speak out on behalf of marginalized communities and serving as an exemplary role model for corporate leadership.” The announcement of his appointment to the Harvard Corporation noted that he “recently co-founded OneTen, a nonprofit coalition whose focus includes expanding family-sustaining employment opportunities for people lacking a four-year degree, with an emphasis on Black Americans.”
“Academic excellence and academic freedom lie at the heart of Harvard’s essential mission of teaching, learning, and scholarship,” Frazier said in a statement. “So does creating a climate for honest, good-faith, respectful discourse on difficult issues, in a spirit of open-mindedness, empathy, and understanding. I look forward to working with my future colleagues on the governing boards to help Harvard advance those ideals, and to support the University’s outstanding faculty, students, and staff as they work to expand knowledge and serve society.”
Bae is co-CEO of Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co., the global investment firm, where he has worked for nearly three decades. Previously, from 2017, he served as the firm’s co-president and co-COO. His Harvard service is extensive: he has been a member of the Corporation Committee on Finance, the University’s Global Advisory Council, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Dean’s Council, and the FAS Committee on Financial Aid. In 2021, he and his wife, novelist Janice Y. K. Lee ’94, led a $45 million philanthropic drive to support Harvard’s Asian American studies program.
“I’m honored to serve an institution that has given me, and so many others, life-changing opportunities,” said Bae in a statement. “The Harvard community is broad and represents many different interests, experiences, and perspectives—but we are brought together by a shared commitment to advancing learning, knowledge, excellence, and making a positive impact in the world. I look forward to working with the Corporation to meet this challenging moment, to strengthen our university community, and to extend Harvard’s leadership in higher education and research.”
In their message to the community, interim President Alan M. Garber and Corporation Senior Fellow Penny Pritzker ’81 described the deliberative process—led by members of Harvard’s two governing boards—that resulted in the choice of Frazier and Bae:
In assessing nominees, consideration was given to a range of criteria including, among others, experience in leading complex organizations; prior service in board-level governance roles, especially with educational, cultural, and other nonprofit institutions; the importance of maintaining strength on the Corporation in fields such as finance, law, biomedical research, and the arts; international outlook; breadth of interests; dedication to creating opportunity for others; demonstrated commitment to fostering excellence in teaching, learning, and research, along with the ideals of excellence, inclusion, and academic freedom; and personal qualities such as integrity, judgment, intellectual acumen, open-mindedness, and discretion.
Former Fellow Rubenstein, who leads the group that recently agreed to acquire the Baltimore Orioles baseball team, joined the Corporation in July 2017. He played a leading role in The Harvard Campaign, and has also been a leading supporter of the University, funding the “treehouse” conference center now under construction in Allston, which will bear his name, and the Kennedy School. He served on the Corporation for one six-year term before concluding his service, perhaps in part because he is now chair of the University of Chicago board of trustees.
Finnegan, elected to the Corporation in 2012, relinquished his duties as University treasurer last year, while continuing to chair the Harvard Management Company (HMC) board—part of a planned transition in senior financial leadership leading to the conclusion of his Corporation service this June. (He reportedly joined HMC leaders on a visit to Silicon Valley to meet with venture capitalists—key investment partners for the endowment—who have been concerned about campus developments in recent months.) He is credited with helping to strengthen Harvard’s financial management and performance, and supporting the restructuring of the endowment—decade-long processes following the enormous endowment losses in 2008-2009, the result of which has now been 10 consecutive years of Harvard operating surpluses.
Read the University announcement here.