Campus & Community

Harvard President Claudine Gay steps down; Provost Alan Garber to serve as interim leader

Aerial view of campus.

File photo by Kris Snibbe/Harvard Staff Photographer

5 min read

Corporation thanks 30th president for ‘deep and unwavering commitment’ to University

Claudine Gay announced on Tuesday that she is stepping down as Harvard president. Provost Alan M. Garber ’76, Harvard’s chief academic officer, will serve as interim president effective immediately.

“This is not a decision I came to easily,” Gay, the University’s 30th president, said in a message to the Harvard community. “I have looked forward to working with so many of you to advance the commitment to academic excellence that has propelled this great University across centuries.” But, she continued, “it has become clear that it is in the best interests of Harvard for me to resign so that our community can navigate this moment of extraordinary challenge with a focus on the institution rather than any individual.”

Gay will return to the Harvard faculty, where she has served as a professor of government since 2006.

“I believe in the people of Harvard because I see in you the possibility and the promise of a better future,” Gay wrote. “These last weeks have helped make clear the work we need to do to build that future — to combat bias and hate in all its forms, to create a learning environment in which we respect each other’s dignity and treat one another with compassion, and to affirm our enduring commitment to open inquiry and free expression in the pursuit of truth.”

The fellows of the Harvard Corporation, the University’s senior governing body, thanked Gay and praised her commitment to Harvard and its people in their own message to the community.

“First and foremost, we thank President Gay for her deep and unwavering commitment to Harvard and to the pursuit of academic excellence,” the fellows wrote. “She believes passionately in Harvard’s mission of education and research, and she cares profoundly about the people whose talents, ideas, and energy drive Harvard. She has devoted her career to an institution whose ideals and priorities she has worked tirelessly to advance, and we are grateful for the extraordinary contributions she has made — and will continue to make — as a leader, a teacher, a scholar, a mentor, and an inspiration to many.”

The Corporation also thanked Garber for stepping in as interim leader of the University, noting his 12 years of  service with distinction as provost. “We are fortunate to have someone of Alan’s broad and deep experience, incisive judgment, collaborative style, and extraordinary institutional knowledge to carry forward key priorities and to guide the University through this interim period,” the fellows wrote.

Garber, an economist and physician, will serve as interim president until a new leader for Harvard is identified and takes office, according to the Corporation’s message.

“I have deep respect and admiration for Claudine Gay,” Garber said. “Her devotion to Harvard has been evident throughout her career, including during her tenure as president.”

He added: “With the support, advice, and help of the Harvard community, my focus during this interim period will be on advancing our mission and helping to heal and strengthen a University that I cherish. There is much to be done, and while today has been a difficult day, I know what this community can accomplish together. I am confident we will overcome challenges we face and build a brighter future for Harvard.”

Garber, a graduate of the College, received a Ph.D. in economics from Harvard and his M.D. from Stanford University. He holds academic appointments at Harvard Medical School, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Harvard Kennedy School, and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Before becoming Harvard provost in 2011, he spent 25 years on the faculty at Stanford, where he served as the Henry J. Kaiser Jr. Professor and a professor of medicine as well as a professor of economics, health research and policy, and economics in the Graduate School of Business (by courtesy). At Stanford, he founded and directed the Center for Health Policy and the Center for Primary Care and Outcomes Research and served as a staff physician at the Department of Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System.

Members of the Corporation indicated that the search for a new president will include broad community engagement and consultation.

“For today, we close by reiterating our gratitude to President Gay for her devoted service to Harvard, as well as to Provost Garber for his willingness to lead the University through the interim period to come.”

The members also noted their appreciation for the work of the wider Harvard community.

“We also extend our thanks to all of you for your continuing commitment to Harvard’s vital educational and research mission — and to core values of excellence, inclusiveness, and free inquiry and expression. At a time when strife and division are so prevalent in our nation and our world, embracing and advancing that mission — in a spirit of common purpose — has never been more important.”