Katie O’Dair, a deeply experienced higher education leader, will be chief of staff to Harvard’s incoming president, Claudine Gay. O’Dair — who has served in roles at Harvard, Boston College, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Tufts over a 30-year career in higher education — will begin in her new position when Gay becomes the University’s 30th president on July 1. The president-elect announced the appointment earlier today.
Lauding O’Dair’s “characteristic combination of deep compassion, thoughtful intensity, and inclusive leadership,” Gay said that the new chief of staff will be “a key partner and adviser in advancing the president’s strategic priorities and a primary liaison to leaders across the institution.”
“Katie’s track record of successful leadership in complex environments, and the respect that she has earned from colleagues across Harvard’s Schools, make her an ideal partner,” said Gay.
O’Dair currently serves as Harvard’s University Marshal, and will retain that title, continuing to provide strategic oversight of the Marshal’s office.
“Her broad portfolio will strengthen connections within Harvard and with the larger community beyond Harvard, in keeping with my commitment to ensuring that Harvard, in its values and structures, is engaged in the world,” said Gay.
Prior to becoming Marshal in 2022, O’Dair served from 2016 as the dean of students at Harvard College, where she restructured the organization and directed a team responsible for residential life; equity, diversity, and inclusion; and student engagement and leadership. She was a member of the leadership team for the Faculty of Arts and Sciences’ pandemic planning and response and served on the steering committee for the University’s Mental Health Task Force. Before coming to Harvard, O’Dair was associate vice president for student affairs at Boston College for 12 years and also served as assistant dean in the Division of Student Life at MIT.
“It is a privilege to join President-elect Gay’s team and I am inspired to support her vision for a Harvard that is deeply connected to the world,” said O’Dair. “Throughout my career I have sought to be a convener and a connector, bringing people together to think strategically about complex challenges and to chart a path forward that strengthens the institutions I have served and higher education more broadly.
“I am deeply grateful to President-elect Gay for the opportunity to bring my experience to this new and exciting role, and look forward to working with the talented team in the president’s office to support her leadership at this exceptional institution,” continued O’Dair.
O’Dair holds a bachelor’s degree from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio; a master’s degree from Northeastern University; and a Ph.D. in higher education administration from the Lynch School of Education at Boston College. She has been an evaluator for the New England Commission on Higher Education since 2015 and a member of the MIT Visiting Committee for Student Life since 2017. She serves on several boards and has held leadership positions in national professional associations. She has also served as a lecturer at Boston College, teaching in the area of higher education administration.