Campus & Community

Katherine N. Lapp named Harvard executive vice president

5 min read

Katherine N. Lapp, executive vice president for business operations for the University of California, will become Harvard University’s executive vice president, President Drew Faust announced today (Aug. 20). Lapp will assume her duties in early October.

As executive vice president, Lapp will be the chief administrative officer within the University’s central administration and a member of the president’s senior management team. She will oversee the financial, administrative, human resources, and capital planning functions of the central administration, as well as administrative aspects of information technology. She will also work with colleagues across the University to identify areas in which greater coordination or collaboration can improve the quality or cost-effectiveness of operations, services, or administrative support. In addition, Lapp will serve as an ex officio member of the board of the Harvard Management Company, which manages Harvard’s endowment.

Lapp has served as the chief business officer for the University of California (UC) since May of 2007, overseeing a system consisting of the Office of the President, 10 separate campuses, five medical centers, and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, with a system-wide budget that exceeded $18 billion this past fiscal year. Before moving to California, Lapp had a distinguished career in leadership roles in city and state government in New York, including serving as executive director and chief executive officer of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, North America’s largest regional transportation network.

“Katie Lapp brings extraordinary management experience and an impressive breadth of accomplishment to this role,” said Faust. “She has extensive expertise in budget and finance, exceptionally strong credentials as a leader and reformer of systems and operations, and demonstrated success in the higher education environment.

“Katie has a reputation for effectiveness, honesty, and integrity in whatever she undertakes, and she has shown that she has the capacity to work with multiple constituencies to accomplish common goals,” Faust continued. “I very much look forward to working with Katie, and I know that she will be a superb addition to the Harvard community.”

“I am very excited about this opportunity to return to the East Coast while continuing to work in higher education,” said Lapp. “I was brought to California to strengthen the administrative effectiveness of the President’s Office and system-wide operations, and I have loved supporting the academic mission of this great public university system. I look forward now to the opportunity to immerse myself in the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead for Harvard.”

The search was guided by an advisory group co-chaired by Vice Presidents Clayton Spencer and Robert Iuliano, and also including David Ellwood, dean of the Kennedy School, Daniel Ennis, executive dean of the Medical School, Christine Heenan, vice president for Government, Community and Public Affairs, Jay Light, dean of the Business School, Kathleen McCartney, dean of the Graduate School of Education, Peter Tufano, Sylvan C. Coleman Professor of Financial Management and senior associate dean of the Business School, and Thomas Vautin, acting vice president for administration.

In addition to serving as the chief budget officer for the University of California, Lapp has provided administrative oversight of finances, human resources, real estate and facilities management, and information resources. She has overseen the university’s financial management, including the issuance of bonds and debt service strategies for all university locations, and the implementation of campus-based capital projects and the development of capital plans to ensure compliance with system-wide budget and finance approvals. Over the past two years, Lapp has overseen a complete restructuring of the Office of the President, including reducing the budget in excess of $60 million. More recently, for the current fiscal year, she has directed the effort to reduce the system-wide budget by $800 million to meet state budget requirements.

Prior to her time at UC, Lapp spent her entire career in New York. Following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, then-Gov. George Pataki appointed her executive director and chief executive officer of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA). In this role, Lapp oversaw the operations, finances, and long-term business strategies of a transportation network with more than 2 billion riders and consisting of New York City Transit, Metro-North Railroad, Long Island Rail Road, Long Island Bus, MTA Bridges and Tunnels, and the MTA Bus and MTA Capital Construction companies. As CEO, Lapp, along with the MTA’s board, was responsible for 65,000 employees, an annual budget of more than $7 billion, and a $21 billion five-year capital program for system maintenance and expansion.

Before moving to the MTA in 2002, she served in a variety of positions in the criminal justice system of the State and City of New York, culminating in her role as the state’s director of criminal justice and commissioner of the Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) from 1997 to 2001.

Lapp received her B.A. in 1978 from Fairfield University and her J.D. in 1981 from Hofstra University.

Lapp succeeds Edward C. Forst, who served as Harvard’s first executive vice president.