Helena Buonanno Foulkes ’86, M.B.A. ’92, an accomplished executive known for her leadership in the consumer health care and retail sectors, has been elected president of Harvard University’s Board of Overseers for the 2021–22 academic year. P. Lindsay Chase-Lansdale ’74, a developmental psychologist and former vice provost for academics at Northwestern University, will serve as vice chair of the board’s executive committee.
Both elected as Overseers in 2016, Foulkes and Chase-Lansdale will serve in the board’s top leadership roles for the final year of their six-year terms.
They succeed R. Martin Chávez ’85, S.M. ’85, an entrepreneur, computer scientist, and former investment banker, and Beth Karlan ’78, M.D. ’82, a physician and scientist at the University of California, Los Angeles, who specializes in cancer genetics and women’s health.
“Helena Foulkes and Lindsay Chase-Lansdale have each been insightful, admired, and valued members of the board these past five years,” said Harvard President Larry Bacow. “The combination of Helena’s experience in guiding large and complex organizations through periods of change, and Lindsay’s experience in a central academic leadership role within a major research university, promises to serve the board and the University well. I look forward to working with them, and the rest of the Overseers, as we navigate Harvard’s emergence from the pandemic and stay focused on advancing our academic mission.”
The Board of Overseers is one of Harvard’s two governing boards, along with the President and Fellows, also known as the Corporation. The board directs the visitation process, the primary means for periodic external assessment of Harvard’s Schools and departments. Through its array of standing committees and the roughly 50 visiting committees that report to them, the board probes the quality of Harvard’s programs and assures that the University remains true to its charter as a place of learning. More generally, drawing on its members’ diverse experiences and expertise, the board provides counsel to the University’s leadership on priorities, plans, and strategic initiatives. It also has the power of consent to certain actions, such as the election of Corporation members.
Foulkes served until 2020 as CEO of Hudson’s Bay Co., a diversified retailer with extensive operations in the U.S., Canada, and Europe. As CEO, she guided major changes to the company’s structure, leadership team, and operations, setting the stage for HBC’s successful privatization. Earlier, Foulkes spent 25 years at CVS Health, rising to become its executive vice president and the president of CVS Pharmacy. She led CVS’s emergence as the largest pharmacy health care provider in the U.S., while overseeing the elimination of tobacco sales, embracing digital innovation, and building the company’s customer loyalty program.
“I’m humbled and honored to be elected president of the Board of Overseers,” said Foulkes. “I feel incredibly fortunate to be part of the Harvard community and will do all that I can to help in these challenging times. President Bacow, working alongside the governing boards, and the administration, faculty, students, and alumni have been amazingly resilient in this last year, and my Overseer colleagues and I will do our best to help guide the University through this next chapter.”
As a Harvard Overseer, Foulkes has chaired the board’s committee on finance, administration, and management, while additionally serving on the executive committee and the committee on natural and applied sciences. She also sits on the governing boards’ joint committee on inspection, as well as the Board of Overseers’ subcommittees on governance and visitation.
Foulkes graduated magna cum laude from Harvard College in 1986 and received her M.B.A. from Harvard Business School in 1992. She has served on the reunion gift committees of her College and HBS classes, as a Harvard College interviewer, and as an adviser to the HBS Health Care Initiative.
An experienced board member in both the nonprofit and for-profit sectors, Foulkes has served on the board of the University of Connecticut’s Dodd Human Rights Impact research center, and also serves as a director of the National Bureau of Economic Research. In addition, she is a member of the boards of Home Depot, Harry’s, and mPharma.
Foulkes has appeared four times on Fortune magazine’s annual ranking of the most powerful women in business, and was also recognized on Fast Company magazine’s list of most creative people.