It’s been a year full of unforgettable experiences for Harvard Alumni Association (HAA) President Susan Morris Novick ’85: sharing the Commencement stage with her daughter Olivia ’17 last May, peering into a live volcano with Harvard friends in Latin America, listening to fado with HAA European leaders in Portugal, and participating in a candlelit Hindu welcome ceremony at the opening of the Lakshmi Mittal South Asia Institute in India, just to name a few.
“As an organization, we focused on work being done at Harvard that has a positive social impact in the world outside the gates of Harvard Yard. But in my HAA travels, I also discovered this kind of positive change being effected by our alumni in their local communities,” said Novick. “The depth and breadth of Harvard’s engagement around the world is extraordinary. It’s been inspiring to share these experiences and tell these stories.”
With her presidency nearing an end, Novick is optimistic about the future of the HAA as she prepares to hand the reins over to her successor, Margaret Wang ’09. “As a recent graduate, Margaret will inspire the next generation of alumni, and I look forward to her bright and dynamic leadership.”
While she will be the youngest president in the alumni association’s modern history, Wang comes into the job with nearly 10 years of experience serving on the HAA Board of Directors, including the past year as first vice president. Wang says what has kept her engaged as a volunteer, more than anything else, are the bonds she has formed with both older and younger alumni.
“You don’t get many opportunities in life to create meaningful intergenerational relationships. These people have become mentors, advocates, and friends,” she said. “As president, I’m inheriting a body of work that has preceded me and will continue after me. That’s an awesome responsibility but one that I’m honored and grateful to have.”
Praising Novick for using alumni stories to illustrate Harvard’s global relevance, Wang said she hopes to build on this theme with an added dimension of personal relevance — encouraging alumni to consider how their values as individuals and as a community show through in the work they do for Harvard.
“Our volunteers give so much in terms of their time and their thought partnership. We want to ensure they are finding meaning and fulfillment in these experiences,” she said.
The forthcoming change in HAA leadership coincides with another presidential transition as Drew Faust concludes her 11-year tenure as University president and Lawrence S. Bacow takes up residence in Mass Hall.
“It’s been moving to hear President Faust share her vision for the future and reflect on all she’s accomplished,” said Novick, who joined Faust at alumni events around the country this year. “I’m excited to see President-elect Bacow expand upon her work and lead us forward.”
Wang also expressed admiration for Faust — who took office during Wang’s sophomore year at Harvard College — as well as enthusiasm about the HAA’s role in introducing Bacow to the alumni community, and vice versa.
“I think about this year as building on the great work that has already been put in motion,” she said. “I feel lucky to be part of this transition. This is an exciting time to be involved with Harvard.”