CFO Search Has Identified ‘Very Good Candidates,’ Says Harvard Corporation Senior Fellow Penny Pritzker ’81


Harvard Corporation senior fellow Penny S. Pritzker ’81 said “several very good candidates” have been identified in the search for the University’s next chief financial officer.

Pritzker, who helms the University’s highest governing board, said in a phone interview Monday that the search process for the next CFO is “mature” and “going well.”

Harvard launched its search for a new chief financial officer six months ago after Vice President for Finance and CFO Thomas J. Hollister announced he would retire at the end of the 2022-23 academic year. Hollister has served in the role since joining Harvard in 2015.

As the University’s top financial officer, Hollister steered Harvard through the financial challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic. In a prescient move, Hollister led efforts to prepare for an economic recession, releasing a University-wide “recession playbook” in October 2019, just three months before the first Covid-19 case was detected in the United States.


Harvard’s next CFO will also be tasked with guiding the school through economic uncertainty as the U.S. economy continues to grapple with heightened inflation and the possibility of a recession.

The new CFO will likely have to work closely with Harvard President-elect Claudine Gay in leading a new University-wide capital campaign, an initiative expected to be announced just a few years into her presidency. Hollister arrived at Harvard amid its previous capital campaign, which ultimately netted a historic $9.6 billion.

Pritzker, however, said it is “unclear” if a new CFO will be appointed before Gay assumes her new post in Massachusetts Hall on July 1.

“They have a group of good candidates,” Pritzker said. “I would hope that that is something that gets announced sooner rather than later — but exactly when, I don’t know.”

Pritzker also said she does not know if Gay will announce her successor as Faculty of Arts and Sciences dean before she departs the role this July.

“She and the Provost are very focused on it,” Pritzker said. “But I don’t know exactly when that will be completed.”

In recent weeks, Gay appointed an interim dean for the School of Public Health and announced outgoing Harvard Divinity School Dean David N. Hempton will serve in the role until the end of August as the search for the school’s next dean continues. Gay has yet to announce who will serve as FAS dean or dean of Harvard’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences when the positions vacate on July 1.

Pritzker said during the interview that ensuring a successful presidential transition is currently “top of mind for the Corporation.”

“One of the most important things that we can do is to work with the new president, assuring that she has the support she needs to have her first year be successful,” she said.

Pritzker said the Corporation “has been in dialogue” with Gay, and she meets personally with the President-elect every one to two weeks.

“She and I have a regularly set call that we do, an engagement, and then we also speak between those times on topics as they arise,” she said. “I’m very, very, very excited about her leadership.”

—Staff writer Miles J. Herszenhorn can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @mherszenhorn.

—Staff writer Claire Yuan can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @claireyuan33.