First on Claudine Gay’s To-Do List: Picking Four New Deans


Lawrence S. Bacow had been Harvard’s leader for less than a month in 2018 when he made what would prove to be the most consequential appointment of his presidency: elevating Claudine Gay to become dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.

Now, as Gay prepares to take over as Bacow’s successor in Massachusetts Hall in July 2023, she is set to face the same challenge of filling a leadership role that oversees a key domain of the University.

Gay will select her successor as dean of the FAS, and she is likely to have the final say on dean selections for Harvard’s School of Public Health, Divinity School, and School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

All four deans are set to depart from their roles at the end of the current academic year.


“It’s going to be a busy spring,” Gay told reporters following her announcement on Thursday. “I feel fortunate because I know that not only am I moving into the spring with a great team in the FAS, but also with great partners in President Bacow and Provost Garber.”

The departure of SEAS Dean Francis J. Doyle III was announced just hours before Gay was named Harvard’s 30th president. David N. Hempton announced plans in October to depart his role atop the Divinity School and HSPH Dean Michelle A. Williams said in November she, too, would leave her position.

Departing President Lawrence S. Bacow told The Crimson in an interview on Tuesday — prior to the announcement of Gay’s selection — that he expected his successor to appoint the next School of Public Health and Divinity School deans.

“I’d be surprised if they’re completed by the time the new president is named, just given where we started, how long it takes to fill one of these jobs,” Bacow said at the time.

Bacow selected three Harvard deans — including Gay — around the start of his tenure, though two of the searches had neared their completion when he was announced as the incoming president.

Gay’s predecessor, Michael D. Smith, announced his departure just a month after Bacow was selected as president.

The new appointments will join a sea of fresh faces joining Harvard’s top ranks. New Executive Vice President Meredith L. Weenick ’90 and Harvard Corporation Senior Fellow Penny S. Pritzker ’81 both assumed their posts this summer. Sarah C. Karmon was announced as executive director of Harvard’s Alumni Association earlier this month. Harvard’s chief financial officer announced plans to step down in November, though the search for his successor continues.

Gay said her priority in the coming months will be to speak with colleagues to better understand facets of the University outside the FAS.

“My focus is very much on getting to a better understanding of the many parts of the Harvard community that have been out of scope for me,” Gay said. “And what happens after I step into the role? We’ll see.”

—Staff writers Cara J. Chang and Rahem D. Hamid contributed reporting.

—Staff writer Brandon L. Kingdollar can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @newskingdollar.