Sharon Elliott Gagnon, A.M. ’65, Ph.D. ’72, has been elected President of the University’s Board of Overseers for 2000-01. She will assume the post after Commencement, succeeding Joan Hutchins ’61.
Entering the final year of her six-year term as Overseer, Gagnon, who holds her Harvard doctorate in French literature, is a civic leader with wide-ranging experience in higher education. A former president of the board of regents of the University of Alaska, and of the Harvard Alumni Association, she has served on the executive committee of Harvard’s Board of Overseers since 1998, and has chaired the Board’s standing committees on Humanities and Arts and on Schools, the College, and Continuing Education.
“Sharon Gagnon has rendered extraordinary service to Harvard, both as an Overseer and as a leader of the alumni association, and I’m very pleased that she will be serving in this important new capacity as President of the Board of Overseers,” said President Neil L. Rudenstine. “She has been a strong and thoughtful voice in all the Board’s deliberations, and a wise chair of two of its key committees. She brings a broad-based knowledge of higher education to her work, and I very much look forward to working closely with her during my own final year as President. I also want to express deep thanks to Joan Hutchins, who has led the Board with wonderful energy and insight during the year drawing to a close.”
“The coming year, Neil Rudenstines last as President of Harvard, will be an exceptional one for the Board of Overseers,” said Gagnon. “As President Rudenstine completes his tenure, we will celebrate with him the many projects he has successfully completed, and we will endeavor to assure the success of the work he has under way. We will also be part of the events that surround his departure as President and the selection of his successor. I feel privileged to be President of the Board of Overseers at what is sure to be an historic moment for Harvard.”
A resident of Anchorage, Alaska, Gagnon has long been a leader in Harvard alumni affairs. She served as chair of the Harvard Alumni Association’s Schools (HAA’s) and Scholarships Committee from 1989 to 1992, and as an HAA vice president from 1990 to 1993, before becoming president of the HAA in 1993-94. She remained a member of the HAA Executive Committee from 1994 to 1999.
Elected to the Board of Overseers in 1995, she chaired its Committee on Humanities and Arts in 1998-99 before becoming chair of its Committee on Schools, the College, and Continuing Education for 1999-2000. She also serves on the Board’s Committee on Alumni Affairs and Development, and is one of two Overseers on the governing boards’ Joint Committee on Appointments. Since 1996, she has been a member of the visiting committees for both the Kennedy School of Government and the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures.
Active in a wide range of educational and civic affairs in Alaska, Gagnon served as a regent of the University of Alaska from 1991 to 1999, and as president of its Board of Regents from 1993 to 1996. She chairs the Rhodes Scholarship selection committee for Alaska, and was a member of the Alaska Commission on Postsecondary Education in the early 1990s. She served on the Board of Trustees of the Northern International University in Magadan, Russia, from 1994 to 1999. Her community service endeavors include membership on the community advisory boards for Alaska Airlines, Providence Health Care System Alaska, and Williams Alaska Petroleum, as well as the president’s advisory panel for the Alyeska Pipeline Service Company. She sits on the boards of the National Bank of Alaska, the Rasmuson Foundation, the CIRI Foundation, and the University of Alaska Foundation.
A Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Indiana University, Gagnon received her B.A. in French in 1962. She went to France as a Fulbright Scholar from 1962 to 1964 and received a Certificat daptitude à lenseignement du français à létranger in 1963 from the Université de Poitiers. She has taught French language and literature at a variety of institutions including Harvard, Vanderbilt, Alaska Methodist University, and the University of Alaska at Anchorage.
She is married to Bruce Gagnon ’64, JD ’67. The couple have two children, Anne Millington ’92 and Elliot Gagnon ’95.