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UPDATED: April 27, 2017 at 11:50 p.m.
After three years as Director of the Institute of Politics, Maggie Williams will step down from the role and leave the IOP at the end of this semester.
Williams’s departure was announced in an email from the IOP Executive Team to IOP members Wednesday morning. Williams will return to her work at Griffin Williams Critical Point Management, a business consulting firm she co-founded with Patrick J. Griffin, a professor of Government at American University.
Former U.S. Congressman William D. “Bill” Delahunt will serve as interim director while a search for Williams’ replacement gets immediately underway. Delahunt also served as interim director while Williams was on leave last fall to serve on Hillary Clinton's transition team.
“Since 2014, the Institute of Politics has been fortunate to have Maggie Williams serving as our Director. We are writing to inform you that Maggie will be leaving the IOP at the conclusion of this semester,” the Executive Team’s email said.
“It’s been a joy,” Williams said of her tenure.
Williams cited her long commute and feeling that she had achieved her primary goals as her reason for leaving.
“I think that there are a lot of things that I wanted to do here that, to a large degree, I have accomplished in many ways,” she said. “I think I really focused on thinking about what skill sets are needed for politics today—some are the same ones, some are new ones.”
Undergraduate President of the IOP Jesse I. Shelburne ’18 said Williams’ departure “was totally her call.”
“She just decided she wanted to go back home, and I know it was a hard decision for her,” Shelburne said. “We’re sad to see her leave but we’re happy for all the work she put in.”
Dean of the Harvard Kennedy School Doug W. Elmendorf also announced Williams’s departure in an email to Kennedy School affiliates.
“I am grateful to Maggie for her many accomplishments as Director of the IOP and for her dedication to the IOP’s crucial mission,” Elmendorf wrote.
Williams’s tenure as director was recently marked by controversy, when some critics said her role on Clinton campaign was a breach of the IOP’s commitment to nonpartisanship and several alumni and students called for Williams’ resignation.
Defenders of Williams said that it was within her rights to pursue political work and that it would not compromise non-partisanship at the IOP. Williams returned to the IOP directorship in January following Hillary Clinton’s loss in the 2016 presidential election.
Shelburne said Williams’s departure was unrelated to the controversy over her leave of absence.
“I haven’t heard anything that relates the two of those,” Shelburne said.
During her time at the IOP, Williams helped build the Institute’s program on Politics of Race and Ethnicity as well as STEAM, an initiative for students to learn about the way politics involves Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math. Before becoming Director, Williams served on the Institute’s Advisory Committee for seven years.
“I think she was really instrumental in helping us bring in people to the IOP who wouldn’t have necessarily been interested otherwise,” Shelburne said.
Before coming to the IOP, Williams was a top adviser to Bill and Hillary Clinton for over 20 years. Williams served as Hillary Clinton’s chief of staff while she was First Lady, and later as her 2008 Presidential campaign director.
Kathryn A. Bussey '17, the former student president of the IOP, said she was sad to see Williams go.
“Maggie has been a transformative leader for the IOP, and I will miss regularly receiving her inspiring words of advice as she moves on to the next chapter of her life,” Bussey wrote in a statement.
Williams said her favorite part of her time at the IOP was working with students.
“Of all the things I love about the IOP, it’s the students. It’s just the energy and the imagination and the willingness to work hard and do anything,” Williams said.
Williams will vacate her position on May 26.
—Staff writer Graham W. Bishai can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GrahamBishai.
This story has been revised to reflect the following correction.
CORRECTION: April 27, 2017
A previous version of this story misstated the role of Kathryn A. Bussey '17 in the IOP.
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