Irene Lang, who is also in the orthodontics residency program, said she finds it inspiring to see another woman in such a large leadership role at Harvard. Lang also admitted to being a little star struck.
“I was surprised to see her walking around in the crowd and be like, ‘Oh, she’s right there!’” Lang said. “It’s nice that she’s interested and showing an interest in what we’re doing and where we’re going after [at Harvard].”
Mayank Chugh had already met Gay. The postdoc in the lab of Sean Megason in the Department of Systems Biology communicated with her recently about how the University can better support postdoctoral candidates in his role as president of the Harvard Medical Postdoc Association. But meeting her in person was a whole other thing.
“The fact that she’s here on campus and meeting everyone — I’ve not seen so many people at once. She’s clearly approachable,” Chugh said while enjoying caramel popcorn. “She’s a leader with humility and dignity. To me that’s very impressive.”
At the Business School, Gay welcomed a swell of HBS and SEAS students, faculty, staff, and visitors who had gathered on the Schwartz Pavilion lawn to meet her — and, in some cases, to introduce her to their elderly parents or their newborn children. And, yes, shoot a quick selfie.
Guests raced through chocolate eclair and strawberry shortcake ice cream bars before they melted as a DJ rocked R&B and funk classics — and Lizzo’s “It’s About Damn Time” for good measure.
Gay said she’s been consistently struck by the range of people she’s met so far and how much she’s still learning about what the University has to offer and what it means to so many.
“Staff, students, post-docs, high school interns — all showing up here and really proud to be associated with Harvard — that’s inspiring and just affirms what an enormous honor and privilege it is to lead this community,” said Gay. “Because it’s obviously a community that’s important in the lives of so many people.”
A large group of staff from the HBS admissions and financial aid office presented Gay with a tote bag full of swag and posed for a group photo. Another HBS staff member said she relates to the road Gay has traveled as a Haitian American woman and has been inspired by her achievements.
“I’m Haitian American, so I love seeing my Haitian people winning and her being in that position is very encouraging to me and I know to a lot of my friends,” said Deannah Blemur, a faculty support specialist from the Boston neighborhood of Mattapan, which has a large Haitian population. Blemur’s parents immigrated to Boston from the island nation to start a small business.
“This is energizing, and I’ve been promised every week of being president is just like this one — sunny skies and ice cream in the middle of the day,” Gay joked before dashing off to Harvard Yard.
There, Maya Sen, a professor at the Kennedy School since 2014, came out to support an old friend. She said she’s known Gay for almost 20 years, since she was an assistant professor at Stanford. And she brought her kids, Hugo and Silvia.
“She’s part of the political science family,” Sen said. “And within the discipline, everyone has been cheering Claudine on in her career ever since she first landed as an assistant professor at Stanford, in 2004. I’m very excited for the University to have a leader like Claudine. She is extremely intelligent and possesses very sound judgment.”