Campus & Community

Ferguson, Yu named as president, vice chair of Board of Overseers

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Roger W. Ferguson Jr. A.B. ’73, A.M. ’78, J.D. ’79, Ph.D. ’81, chairman of Swiss Re America Holding Corp. and former vice chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, has been elected president of Harvard’s Board of Overseers for 2008-09.

Pauline Yu ’71, president of the American Council of Learned Societies and past dean of the humanities at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), will become vice chair of the board’s executive committee.

Both Ferguson and Yu will be completing the final year of their six-year Overseer terms in 2008-09. They will assume their new roles following Commencement, succeeding Frances D. Fergusson A.M. ’66, Ph.D. ’73 and William F. Lee ’72.

“Our Overseers together contribute an extraordinary breadth of perspective and experience to the work of the University,” said President Drew Faust, “and both Roger Ferguson and Pauline Yu carry out their board responsibilities with a remarkable measure of wisdom and devotion. I look forward to working with them closely, and benefiting further from their excellent counsel, during their time as senior officers of the board.”

As an Overseer, Ferguson has served since 2006 as a member of the executive committee and now chairs the boards’ standing committee on institutional policy. He also sits on the board’s standing committees on social sciences and alumni affairs and development, as well as the governing board’s Joint Committee on Inspection, Harvard’s audit committee. A past member of the Committee to Visit the University Library, he currently chairs the Memorial Church visiting committee and serves on the visiting committee to the Law School. He was an elected director of the Harvard Alumni Association in the late 1990s, and was chosen as class marshal for his 25th Harvard College reunion in 1998.

An economist by training who has served with distinction in both the government and the private sector, Ferguson was vice chairman of the Board of Governors of the U.S. Federal Reserve System from 1999 to 2006. There he chaired the Fed’s Financial Stability Forum and several of its principal committees. In June 2006, he joined Swiss Re, one of the world’s leading reinsurance companies, as chairman of Swiss Re America Holding Corp. Since October 2006 he has also served as head of financial services and as a member of Swiss Re’s executive committee.

A 1973 graduate of Harvard College, Ferguson went on to receive both a law degree (1979) and a Ph.D. in economics (1981) from Harvard. As a graduate student, he was an assistant senior tutor and economics and pre-law tutor in Leverett House. He practiced law at Davis Polk & Wardwell in New York and then was a partner with McKinsey & Company before joining the Federal Reserve.

A trustee of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J., he is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, as well as the Group of Thirty, an international body of public and private sector leaders focused on global economic issues.

Pauline Yu, an eminent scholar of classical Chinese poetry, has served since 2003 as president of the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS), a federation of 69 national scholarly organizations that aims to advance humanistic studies across the humanities and the social sciences.

As a Harvard Overseer, Yu has been a member of the board’s executive committee since 2006 and chairs its standing committee on humanities and arts. She also serves on the standing committee on schools, the college, and continuing education. In addition, she chairs the visiting committee to the Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations and is a member of the visiting committee to the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. She is one of three Overseer members of the Advisory Committee on Honorary Degrees.

Before moving to New York to lead the ACLS, Yu was professor of East Asian languages and cultures and dean of humanities at UCLA from 1994 to 2003. Her earlier scholarly career included service as assistant and then associate professor at the University of Minnesota (1976-85), as associate and then full professor at Columbia (1985-89), and as professor and founding chair of the Department of East Asian Languages and Literatures at the University of California, Irvine.

A Harvard-Radcliffe undergraduate in history and literature, Yu received her A.B. in 1971. While an undergraduate, she spent one year at the Freie Universität in Berlin. She did her graduate studies at Stanford, where she earned an M.A. in 1973 and a Ph.D. in 1976, both in comparative literature.

Among her many published works are “The Poetry of Wang Wei: New Translations and Commentary” and “The Reading of Imagery in the Chinese Poetic Tradition.” Her honors include, most recently, the 2007 William Riley Parker Prize for the outstanding article published in PMLA, the journal of the Modern Language Association of America. She has received fellowship awards from the ACLS, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

A fellow of both the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Philosophical Society, and a senator of the Phi Beta Kappa Society, she is also a trustee of the National Humanities Center, the Teagle Foundation, and the Asian Cultural Council, and serves on the scholars’ council of the Library of Congress.

The Board of Overseers of Harvard College was created by the General Court of the Colony of Massachusetts Bay in 1642, six years after the founding of what is now Harvard University. The board is the larger of Harvard’s two governing boards, the other being the President and Fellows of Harvard College (also known as the Harvard Corporation). Members of the Board of Overseers are elected annually by holders of Harvard degrees. Typically, five Overseers are elected each year to six-year terms of service.