Maggie Williams Will Return to IOP in January

Margaret “Maggie” A. Williams, who served as director of the Institute of Politics before taking a leave of absence to advise Hillary Clinton’s campaign, will return to Harvard in January, according Kennedy School spokesperson Doug Gavel.

Williams, whose unpaid leave of absence was announced in August, joined the Clinton campaign to work on the former Secretary of State’s White House transition team—an effort made unnecessary by President-elect Donald Trump’s victory on Nov. 8.

Maggie Williams

“Maggie Williams took a three month leave of absence from the Kennedy School from Oct. 1-Dec. 31 in order to work on the Hillary Clinton transition team,” Gavel wrote in an email. “She has indicated to us that she intends to return to the School in January.”

Neither Williams nor the Clinton campaign responded to a request for comment.

After the announcement that Williams would take a leave of absence to work on Clinton’s transition team, 15 Harvard alumni penned a letter to Kennedy School Dean Douglas W. Elmendorf calling for Williams to step down completely, citing concerns over the IOP’s ability to host “a truly independent and free discussion for this fall’s spirited U.S. Presidential debate” without her complete resignation.


“When Ms. Williams was hired, the Kennedy School leaders made clear that she was finished with partisan politics and would work with both sides of political aisle,” they wrote. “Her desire now to go back in to the political fight forces us to therefore call for her immediate resignation and for you to appoint a new director with deference to all political views.”

However, Gavel defended Williams at the time of the controversy, saying her public service record made her uniquely qualified for the IOP leadership position.

“Maggie Williams has an accomplished record in public service, and her experience working in the White House for two presidential administrations is widely known,” Gavel said in August. “[I]t provides her with a unique perspective to work with students at the IOP.”

William has longstanding ties to Clinton. She previously served as chief of staff to Clinton during her time as First Lady, and was campaign manager for Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign. During Williams’ absence, former U.S. Representative for Massachusetts William D. “Bill” Delahunt served as interim director of the IOP.

—Staff writer Brandon J. Dixon can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @BrandonJoDixon.