Campus & Community

Two new Corporation members

Kenneth C. Frazier and Joseph Y. Bae.

7 min read

Kenneth C. Frazier and Joseph Y. Bae to join governing board

Kenneth C. Frazier, J.D. ’78, and Joseph Y. Bae ’94 will join the Harvard Corporation as its two newest members, the University announced Sunday. 

An acclaimed leader, distinguished lawyer, experienced board member, and noted advocate for economic inclusion and opportunity, Frazier is former chairman, CEO, and general counsel of Merck & Co., one of the world’s most prominent pharmaceutical companies. 

An expert in finance with broad international and institutional governance experience, close involvement with cultural institutions, and a long record of Harvard service, Bae is co-CEO of KKR, a leading global investment firm. 

“We very much look forward to welcoming both Ken Frazier and Joe Bae to the Corporation,” said Interim President Alan M. Garber and Senior Fellow Penny Pritzker in a message to the Harvard community. “Our work is sure to benefit from their leadership qualities, their wide-ranging expertise and experience, and their devotion to higher education and Harvard.”

In accordance with the University’s charter, Frazier and Bae were elected Sunday by the Corporation to become Fellows of Harvard College, with the consent of the University’s Board of Overseers.

Frazier will begin his service on Feb. 7, filling an existing vacancy on the Corporation. 

“Academic excellence and academic freedom lie at the heart of Harvard’s essential mission of teaching, learning, and scholarship. So does creating a climate for honest, good-faith, respectful discourse on difficult issues, in a spirit of open-mindedness, empathy, and understanding,” said Frazier.  “I look forward to working with my future colleagues on the governing boards to help Harvard advance those ideals, and to support the University’s outstanding faculty, students, and staff as they work to expand knowledge and serve society.”

Bae will take up his Corporation role on July 1, succeeding Paul J. Finnegan ’75, M.B.A. ’82, who will conclude his 12-year tenure at the end of June.

“I’m honored to serve an institution that has given me, and so many others, life-changing opportunities,” said Bae. “The Harvard community is broad and represents many different interests, experiences, and perspectives — but we are brought together by a shared commitment to advancing learning, knowledge, excellence, and making a positive impact in the world. I look forward to working with the Corporation to meet this challenging moment, to strengthen our University community, and to extend Harvard’s leadership in higher education and research.”

“Ken Frazier and Joe Bae are both widely admired leaders with a passion for education and a longstanding commitment to serving others,” said Meredith Hodges ’03, M.B.A. ’10, president of the Board of Overseers.  “Both have guided complex global organizations, both have far-ranging experience on governing boards, and both have a deep appreciation for the value of universities and for the values that animate a university’s work. I’m so pleased that they have each agreed to serve.”

Following is the message from Interim President Garber and Senior Fellow Pritzker announcing the new appointments:

Dear Members of the Harvard Community,

We write to let you know that two accomplished alumni will join the Harvard Corporation in the coming months. Kenneth C. Frazier, an acclaimed leader, lawyer, and advocate for opportunity, will become a Fellow of Harvard College on February 7, 2024, filling a current vacancy on the Corporation. Joseph Y. Bae, an admired expert in finance with extensive global experience and a long record of service to Harvard, will become a Fellow of Harvard College on July 1, when Paul J. Finnegan concludes his twelve years of service on the Corporation. In line with Harvard’s charter, both new Fellows were elected today by the Corporation with the consent of the Board of Overseers.

Ken Frazier, a 1978 graduate of Harvard Law School, is former chairman and CEO of Merck & Co., one of the world’s premier biopharmaceutical companies. In addition to his experience leading a complex global enterprise with a major commitment to biomedical research, he has had a distinguished career as a practicing lawyer, first in private practice and later as Merck’s general counsel. Known for his dedication to expanding opportunity for others, he recently co-founded OneTen, a nonprofit coalition focused on expanding family-sustaining employment opportunities for people lacking a four-year degree with an emphasis on Black Americans.

He currently serves as chair of health assurance initiatives at the venture capital firm General Catalyst. A member of the Harvard Law School Dean’s Council, he has had extensive experience as a board member for his undergraduate alma mater, Penn State, and an array of other nonprofit and for-profit organizations. His many honors include the Anti-Defamation League’s Courage Against Hate Award (2020) “for using his platform to speak out on behalf of marginalized communities and serving as an exemplary role model for corporate leadership.” Chief Executive magazine named him CEO of the Year in 2021, and he has appeared twice on TIME’s annual list of the world’s most influential people. 

Joe Bae, a 1994 graduate of Harvard College, is co-CEO of KKR, a global investment firm where he has worked for nearly three decades. He became co-CEO in 2021, after having served as the firm’s co-president and co-COO since 2017. He is credited, among other things, as being the architect of KKR’s major expansion into Asia, and overseeing the firm’s global private equity, infrastructure, and real estate businesses. 

Highly experienced in institutional governance, he has served on numerous boards, including institutions such as the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts (current vice chair), Phillips Academy Andover (former trustee and chair of nominating and governance committee), the Asia Society, the Hong Kong Ballet, and the Nature Conservancy’s Asia Pacific Council.  He is also a co-founder and board member of The Asian American Foundation (TAAF), which was established in 2021 to serve the Asian American and Pacific Islander community.

He has been one of Harvard’s most engaged alumni leaders in recent decades. Among other roles, he serves on the Corporation Committee on Finance, the University’s Global Advisory Council, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Dean’s Council, and the FAS Committee on Financial Aid. Along with his wife, the novelist Janice Y. K. Lee ’94, he led a recent philanthropic drive to support an FAS initiative to expand education and scholarship in Asian American studies.

Our two newly elected Corporation members emerged from a deliberative process led by members of Harvard’s two governing boards. In assessing nominees, consideration was given to a range of criteria including, among others, experience in leading complex organizations; prior service in board-level governance roles, especially with educational, cultural, and other nonprofit institutions; the importance of maintaining strength on the Corporation in fields such as finance, law, biomedical research, and the arts; international outlook; breadth of interests; dedication to creating opportunity for others; demonstrated commitment to fostering excellence in teaching, learning, and research, along with the ideals of excellence, inclusion, and academic freedom; and personal qualities such as integrity, judgment, intellectual acumen, open-mindedness, and discretion. 

We very much look forward to welcoming both Ken Frazier and Joe Bae to the Corporation. Our work is sure to benefit from their leadership qualities, their wide-ranging expertise and experience, and their devotion to Harvard and higher education. We know that they share a commitment to academic freedom, inclusion, and the pursuit of excellence in Harvard’s mission of teaching and research. 


Alan M. Garber, Interim President

Penny Pritzker, Senior Fellow

Known formally as the President and Fellows of Harvard College, the Harvard Corporation is the oldest corporation in the Western Hemisphere. Chartered in 1650, the Corporation exercises fiduciary responsibility with regard to the University’s academic, financial, and physical resources and overall well-being. With 13 members, the Corporation is one of Harvard’s two governing boards. Members of the other board, the Board of Overseers, are elected by holders of Harvard degrees.