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Harvard appoints first Black President

Harvard appoints first Black President
Jessica Lian

Harvard inaugurated Claudine Gay on Friday to serve as the Ivy League University’s first Black President. Gay would make history as Harvard’s second woman president.

Gay delivered a speech during her inauguration, speaking on her momentous achievement. Gay, who has led Harvard since July 2023, was celebrated in a two-hour ceremony with multiple speeches and artistic performances.

Gay was later presented with traditional symbols of the Harvard presidency. Harvard Corporation Senior Fellow Penny S. Pritzker formally installed Gay as President, according to the ceremony transcript from the Harvard Crimson.

“On behalf of the Corporation, and by virtue of the authority granted by the governing boards, I declare that you, Claudine Gay, have been duly elected to be the 30th president of Harvard University,” Pritzker said.

After Gay was inaugurated by the leaders of the University’s governing boards, Gay took center stage and began delivering her speech to a crowd drenched in rain.

“I stand before you on this stage with the weight and the honor of being a first,” Gay told the wet audience members.

In her speech, she stated that Harvard should celebrate diversity as she believed it strengthened the quality of campus life.

“We embrace diversity — of backgrounds, lived experiences and perspectives — as an institutional imperative,” she said. “When we do that, it’s not with a secret hope for calm or consensus. It’s because we believe in the value of dynamic engagement and the learning that happens when ideas and opinions collide.”

The ceremony occurred at the Tercentenary Theatre and began with a procession where 185 universities were represented, The Harvard Gazette reported.

CUNY Chancellor Félix Matos Rodriguez was in attendance, saying that he believed Gay was ready to serve as a “representative and defender of all of higher education.”

“This is not an easy task given the diversity of the institutions that comprise the higher education landscape in the U.S., but if someone is profoundly capable and unmistakably ready to do this — it is President Claudine Gay,” Matos Rodríguez said. “I have no doubt that she will represent all of us in higher education with passion, integrity and vision.”

Gay’s family, including her father, Sony Gay Sr., her husband, Chris Afendulis, and her son, Costa Gay-Afendulis, were also in attendance. Her mother, Claudette Gay, passed away earlier this year.

Massachusetts Governor and Harvard alum Maura Healey spoke at Gay’s inauguration, where she noted the impact that Gay’s appointment will have on the university.

“President Gay, your presidency is truly historic,” Healy said. “You have my admiration and support.”

The Harvard Gazette reported that The Harvard Corporation, the university’s principal governing board, took a long time searching for a candidate for the president position before deciding on Gay.

Gay is no stranger to the halls of Harvard University. She received her Ph.D. in Government from Harvard in 1998 and joined the faculty in 2006. Her professional achievements include receiving the Toppan Prize for best dissertation in political science.

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Jahlil Rush is a Production Assistant for The Ticker.
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