Palfrey To Head Up First Lady’s Initiative
Master will temporarily leave Adams House for Washington
Adams House Master and Harvard Medical School Professor of Pediatrics Judith S. “Judy” Palfrey ’67 has been named Executive Director of Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” Initiative, the White House announced on Friday.
Palfrey will take a leave from Harvard for up to two years to run the First Lady’s pet project, which is dedicated to combatting the growing American childhood obesity epidemic.
Palfrey left for Washington on Monday afternoon, but her husband, John G. “Sean” Palfrey ’67, will stay in Cambridge and continue to serve as House Master.
Adams House Resident Dean Sharon L. Howell will assume the role of interim House Master in addition to her regular duties.
Judith Palfrey, who has long been a part of the Let’s Move Initiative and spoke at its inaugural event in 2010, said her experience with Harvard House life has prepared her for the challenges she might face in Washington.
“Living in a community like Harvard and like the Houses, you really learn how communities work together, how people share responsibility, how teams form,” Palfrey said. “That’s what this is all about really—rebuilding communities all over the United States.”
Although she will spend her weeks in Washington, she will return to Cambridge on the weekends and continue to be a part of Adams House, where she has been a House Master for 12 years.
But, she said, she is ready to take on the fight against childhood obesity.
“It’s a difficult problem,” Palfrey said. “It won’t be easy, but I’m honored to have this opportunity and excited to get started.”
A healthy lifestyle has long been a professional and personal priority for Palfrey, said her son, John G. Palfrey Jr. ’94, who is also a professor at Harvard Law School.
“Sports were always a central element of our life together as a family,” her son said. “Part of her vision of what a healthy society looks like is one where diet habits and exercise are part of family life.”
Previously, Judith Palfrey served as president of the American Academy of Pediatrics as a Senior Associate in Medicine at the Children’s Hospital Boston.
“Her tremendous experience and insight in pediatrics and community health will make her a strong leader for Let’s Move! and make a real difference in the lives of our nation’s children,” First Lady Michelle Obama said in a White House press release.
Palfrey joins a growing list of Harvard professors who have left academia to join the Obama administration, including Harvard Law School Professor Cass R. Sunstein ’75 and Harvard Kennedy School Professor Samantha Power.
—Staff writer Hana N. Rouse can be reached at email@example.com.