Former President of Finland To Join HKS as Fellow

Former President of Finland Tarja Halonen will join the Harvard Kennedy School in the spring semester as its second Angelopoulos Global Public Leaders Fellow, the school announced on Thursday.

As part of the fellowship, Halonen will give speeches, host study groups, and visit classrooms for one semester at the school.

Kennedy School Dean David T. Ellwood ’75 selected Halonen from “a handful of other very impressive public leaders,” HKS spokesperson Doug Gavel wrote in an email. Faculty and staff, particularly fellowship program faculty co-chairs R. Nicholas Burns and Peter B. Zimmerman, gave Ellwood advice in the selection process.

“We’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what kind of leader, what kind of issues that leader has been committed to in office and post-office [would fit HKS], and we thought that President Halonen was really the perfect choice for us,” said Burns, a professor of international affairs at the Kennedy School.

The announcement of Halonen’s appointment comes a year after the departure of the first Angelopoulos Fellow, former Mexican President Felipe Calderón, whose selection in 2012 and subsequent time on campus prompted significant controversy.

Gavel pointed to Halonen’s more than three decades of “impressive” public service on the Finnish and world stages as the key reason for the appointment. Halonen served as president of Finland for two terms and was the first woman to hold the position.

“She is someone who has had real experience—substantial experience—in European politics,” Burns said. “She’s been someone who’s been a pathmaker and pathbreaker in terms of female leadership of the world...and she’s extraordinarily active.”

Halonen’s fellowship, Burns added, is also timely in that it will come at a decisive moment in European history.

“She’s so fully engaged,” he said, “in all of these big issues that are at the center of Europe today: from the Eurozone crisis to the nature of the current European Union, how it’s going to develop, if there’s going to be a fiscal union, [etc.]”

Burns said he hopes that the Angelopoulos fellowship will someday become an annual program, but recognized that the difficult schedules of potential fellowship candidates can make the search process take years. The Kennedy School did not host an Angelopoulos fellow in 2014.

“We know that by conferring the fellowship on someone we are very much affirming their life work,” Burns said. “[Halonen’s] work is well worthy of recognition by the University and our students.”

—Staff writer Luca F. Schroeder can be reached at schroeder@college.harvard.edu. Follow him on Twitter @lucaschroeder.

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