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Harvard has nominated eight alumni to fill five spots on the Board of Overseers, the University’s second highest governing body, that will become vacant later this year.
The Board of Overseers is a 30-member body of Harvard alumni and affiliates that works with the Harvard Corporation, the University’s highest governing body, to advise the University President on major institutional decisions. Its members serve for six-year terms, and Harvard degree holders vote every spring to elect five new members.
This year’s group of nominees include alumni in careers of academia, public education, finance, medicine, and the law, and hail from across the country. The eight nominees, announced Jan. 9, are Paul L. Choi ’86, a partner at a Sidley Austin LLP; Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar ’93, a justice on the Supreme Court of California; Darienne B. Driver, the superintendent of the Milwaukee Public School District; Carla A. Harris ’84, the vice chair of wealth management and managing director at Morgan Stanley; Lane MacDonald ’88, the president of FMR Diversified Investments; Elizabeth D. Samet ’91, an English professor at West Point; Craig R. Stapleton ’67, senior advisor at Stone Point Capital; and Leslie P. Tolbert ’73, a neuroscience professor at the University of Arizona.
If elected, Choi—who previously served as the president of the Harvard Alumni Association—said he intends to examine financial barriers that might prevent a qualified candidate from attending the University.
“I think one of the real challenges is that there’s an increasingly competitive world in terms of attracting the best students and faculty,” Choi said. “I think we have to do whatever we can to reduce the barriers for attracting the best students, and part of that is making sure that money and financial aid is not an impediment to anybody.”
Tolbert wrote in an email that while she does not have a “particular agenda” at this point in the election process, she is interested in investing in Harvard’s science and engineering programs.
“I’d hope to put some focus on areas relating to science and engineering broadly and to the life sciences in particular, where there is such opportunity for research and education to have a significant impact on quality of life,” Tolbert wrote.
The HAA nominated each of this year’s eight nominees, but candidates can also enter the Overseers race as petition candidates. Last year, five alumni launched a petition campaign on an unconventional ticket: eliminate undergraduate tuition and make public how Harvard considers race in its admissions practices—a platform that University President Drew G. Faust and others criticized.
While none of the ticket's five members were ultimately elected to the Board of Overseers, it drew national media attention to a usually quiet alumni process. After the race, the University changed the election rules, moving the process online and increasing the number of signatures a petition candidate needs to get on the ballot.
Neither Tolbert nor Choi said they knew of any alumni intending to enter the race as petition candidates.
“It’s difficult to predict when or for what purpose alumni independently seek election, as there have been a broad variety of aspirants who have successfully made the ballot in the more than 100 years they’ve been eligible to do so,” Philip W. Lovejoy, HAA's current executive director, wrote in an email.
This year’s deadline for alumni to gather signatures for a petition to enter the race is Feb. 1.
Any Harvard degree holder is eligible to vote in the election. Ballots will be mailed to eligible voters by April 1, and must be received by Harvard by May 16 to be counted.
Five members will step down from the Board of Overseers this year: Richard W. Fisher ’71, Verna C. Gibbs ’75, Nicole P. Haughey ’93, Flavia Buarque de Almeida, and Kenji Yoshino ’91.
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