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Hanna H. Gray will retire in June from her post on the Harvard Corporation, the University’s seven-member top governing board, the University announced last week.
Gray, who has served on the Corporation since 1997, is only the second female member in the Corporation’s history. Judith R. Hope, who resigned in spring 2000, was the first woman on the Corporation.
A pioneer in higher education, Gray was the first female president of a major research university, leading the University of Chicago from 1978 to 1993. She also served as Northwestern University’s dean of the college, and as Yale’s provost and acting president. Gray spent six years on Harvard’s Board of Overseers, and is the only person ever to serve on both the Corporation and the Yale Corporation.
Her departure comes at a time when University President Lawrence H. Summers is under fire for the declining proportion of tenure offers to female candidates. Last year, just four of 32 tenure offers were made to women, a figure that has declined steadily over the past three years.
“I think we will probably look for a woman [to replace Gray],” said Corporation member James R. Houghton ’58, who is the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Corning Incorporated.
“It is probably a good thing to have a woman on the Corporation...but there is not a woman ‘slot’ on the Corporation,” he added.
One prominent female academic and potential contender for the spot, Nan Keohane, stepped down this summer as the first woman president of Duke.
Keohane chairs the Board of Overseers’ visiting committee at the Kennedy School of Government.
“Nan is a very good friend of Larry [Summers] and of Hanna,” Houghton said.
Houghton said he could not comment on whether Keohane was being considered in the search for Gray’s successor.
“We’re just beginning the search and it will take some time...it’s a rather laborious process to identify the best people,” Houghton said.
A joint committee of the Corporation and Board of Overseers will search for Gray’s successor. The Corporation selects its new members “with the counsel and consent of the Board of Overseers,” according to a University press release.
“Hanna’s a jewel and we don’t find many like her,” Houghton said.
“She has very good judgment, and almost everything I’ve been in favor of, she has been in favor of too,” Houghton added.
Gray, who was born in Heidelberg, Germany, said in a statement that she enjoyed the “postdoctoral education” of serving on the Corporation.
“I am especially grateful to have served with such excellent colleagues, among them three exceptional presidents whose leadership has sustained and strengthened Harvard’s pre-eminence in the world of higher education,” she wrote.
Gray could not be reached for comment yesterday.
University President Lawrence H. Summers, who is also a member of the Corporation, hailed Gray’s service to Harvard in the statement, adding that he hoped she would continue to advise the University.
“Harvard is fortunate and grateful to be among the institutions that have benefited greatly from [Gray’s] wisdom and counsel,” wrote Summers. “I hope we will continue to do so long after she concludes her distinguished tenure on the Corporation.”
Gray boasts a half-century long association with Harvard. She earned a Ph.D. in history from Harvard in 1957, and served as a tutor and assistant professor in history and literature.
—Staff writer Stephen M. Marks can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
—Staff writer Lauren A. E. Schuker can be reached at email@example.com.
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