Nannerl O. Keohane will assume Hanna H. Gray’s seat on the seven-member Harvard Corporation in June, and was selected by the Corporation yesterday. Gray was a female pioneer in higher education, serving as the first female president of a major research university: she led the University of Chicago from 1978 to 1993.
In following Gray, Keohane brings a resume replete with higher education administrative experience. In addition to heading two major universities, she has chaired Stanford University’s faculty senate and a Harvard Board of Overseers visiting committee.
Keohane said last night she is “very excited” and “tremendously honored” by her new role, adding that she is looking forward to taking on the job at a time when Harvard has a number of ambitious projects in the works.
“It’s an intriguing time in the University’s history with the opportunities for Allston, for looking at curricular reform, for thinking about global challenges,” she said. “Harvard is the sort of place people look to for leadership.”
University President Lawrence H. Summers, who also serves on the Corporation, said that Gray will be missed.
“Hanna Gray will be almost impossible to replace,” Summers said.
But he added that Keohane’s expertise leading universities will make her a valuable addition.
“She has been a thoughtful academic leader on issues ranging from the challenges facing women’s studies to curriculum reform to the reorganization of a major medical complex,” he said.
Keohane said that she hopes to draw on her experience leading universities in her new role.
“I’m sure that one of the main roles of the Corporation is to provide thoughtful advice and reactions to the president,” she said. “Since I’ve spent the last 24 years of my life being a president...I hope that I can bring some of that expertise to bear to give good advice and provide thoughtful counsel.”
She said she comes in with no set priorities for Harvard.
“My first priority is to learn a lot more about my new University,” she said. “Over time, I’m sure I’ll develop some sense of where my help is most useful and where it’s most important to put my energies, but I don’t really come in with that in the beginning.”
Keohane said she sees her appointment as an important step in maintaining diversity on the Corporation.
“I realize that turnover on the Corporation for good reasons is quite slow, but I don’t suppose it’s written in stone anywhere that there can only be one female,” she said. “For now, I think it’s important to have at least one woman, and maybe one day there will be more.”
Keohane, who was born in Arkansas, received her B.A. from Wellesley in 1961. She studied at Oxford University on a Marshall Scholarship and earned a Ph.D. in political science from Yale University in 1967.