IP Lawyer, Medical Director Named New Leaders of Board of Overseers

UPDATED: April 2, 2013, at 2:51 a.m.

Intellectual property lawyer Morgan Chu, who graduated from Harvard Law School in 1976, will preside over Harvard’s Board of Overseers—the University’s second-highest governing body—for the 2014-2015 academic year as its new president, the University announced in a press release on Tuesday.

Walter Clair ’77, a medical professor at Vanderbilt University Medical Center who also holds degrees from the Medical School and School of Public Health, will join Chu as vice president.

The 30 members of the Board of Overseers work in conjunction with the Harvard Corporation, Harvard’s highest governing board. The Corporation, a much smaller committee with a roster of only 13 members, must obtain the Overseers’ approval for many major decisions, including the choice of University president as well as nominations to the Corporation.

“Every single member and the Board as a whole does our utmost to protect what is best at Harvard, while also moving us all forward as one Harvard, transcending the traditional boundaries,” said Chu, who is the brother of former Secretary of Energy Steven Chu.

In a statement, University President Drew G. Faust said that Chu and Clair “embody the board’s constant concern for understanding what helps Harvard thrive, challenging us to innovate and do still better, and encouraging us to think across traditional boundaries to see the University as a whole.”

Chu, currently a partner and previously a co-managing partner from 1997 to 2003 at Irell & Manella LLP in Los Angeles, said that he was “very humbled by the honor.”

“I know I am a temporary steward for an extraordinary institution,” he added.

The Board of Overseers’ new leaders, like many of the Overseers, occupy prominent positions in their fields. Chu was named one of the decade’s 40 most influential lawyers in 2010 as well as one of the top 10 trial lawyers by the National Law Journal. Although a high school dropout, Chu earned five degrees by age 25, including a B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. from UCLA, a M.S.L. from Yale, and a J.D. from Harvard Law School, where he endowed a professorship in May 2013.

A nationally recognized cardiological specialist, Clair is an associate professor of medicine and medical director of cardiac electrophysiology at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, where he received awards for teaching and a commitment to diversity.

As Overseers, Chu and Clair have served on several Harvard committees. Both sit on the Board of Overseers’ Committee on Schools, the College, and Continuing Education, of which Clair is the chair. In addition to working on various committees on the social sciences across the University, Chu is a member of the Board’s executive committee.

“Serving on the various committees as well as the Board of Overseers, it is just a way of paying it forward in a sense,” Chu said. “I always considered myself to be extraordinarily fortunate to learn from the best professors and the best fellow students while I was at Harvard.”

Clair also served on the Board’s committee on natural and applied sciences and the Corporation and Board’s joint committee on alumni affairs and development. He was an elected director of the Harvard Alumni Association from 2002 to 2005 and chairman of the HAA’s awards committee from 2005 to 2007.

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