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Pritzker and Martin Named to Corporation, Bringing Governing Body to Gender Parity

By Kristine E. Guillaume and Jamie D. Halper, Crimson Staff Writers

Penny S. Pritzker ’81 and Carolyn A. “Biddy” Martin will join the Harvard Corporation, the University’s highest governing body, Harvard announced Wednesday.

With the addition of Pritzker and Martin, The Corporation has reached gender parity—its 12 fellows now include six female and six male members.

Pritzker and Martin will fill the two vacancies on the Corporation left by Boston business leader Joseph J. O’Donnell ’67 and Harvard President-elect Lawrence S. Bacow. Bacow, a member of the Corporation since 2011, will transition to the presidential seat on the governing body when University President Drew G. Faust departs at the end of June.

Both Pritzker and Martin were elected to their positions Wednesday by Faust and the Corporation with the consent of the Board of Overseers, the University's second highest governing body. The pair will assume their new roles in July.

Pritzker served a U.S. secretary of commerce under President Barack Obama and is a former Overseer. After graduating from the College, Pritzker earned a joint J.D.-M.B.A. from Stanford in 1985. She currently boasts a net worth of $2.8 billion and a history of donating to Harvard. A common space in the Science Center bears her family’s name, and she has funded scholarships, research centers, and programs at the School of Public Health and Graduate School of Education.

Penny S. Pritzker '81.
Penny S. Pritzker '81. By Moshe Zusman Photography Studio

Martin is the president of Amherst College and the former chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She will become one of five fellows of the Corporation who are not College alumni. A distinguished scholar of German studies and women’s studies, Martin also served as the provost of Cornell University for eight years until 2008. During her time as Cornell provost, Martin oversaw the construction of $150 million life sciences complex. Harvard is currently undertaking a similar venture with the construction of a sciences campus in neighboring Allston.

William F. Lee ’72, the senior fellow of the Corporation, wrote in a statement he thinks Martin and Pritzker will be “outstanding” new additions to the Corporation.

“We’re very fortunate to have two such capable, knowledgeable, and accomplished individuals ready to join the Corporation come July,” Lee wrote.

Though the governing body will soon achieve gender parity, it will still be predominantly white; Lee and Corporation members Kenneth I. Chenault and Theodore V. Wells Jr. are the only non-white members of the group.

Pritzker wrote in a statement that returning to Harvard as a Corporation fellow will be “an incredible honor and privilege.”

“I am deeply grateful to this university community for its transformative impact on my life and career, helping to shape not only my learning but also my values and commitment to others,” she wrote. “My hope is that I will serve as a worthy and wise advisor to President Bacow, the leadership team, and all the University’s various constituents in order to maintain the high level of excellence of this dynamic institution.”

Martin wrote she felt “honored to be asked to serve” as a Corporation member.

Carolyn A. Biddy Martin
Carolyn A. Biddy Martin By Courtesy of Amherst College

“The values that guide Harvard and the example it sets matter, not only to Harvard and its future, but also to the future of American higher education more broadly,” Martin wrote. “I look forward to working with President Bacow and the members of the Corporation to help steward this remarkable institution and promote its mission in the world.”

The Corporation exercises authority over the University’s fiduciary affairs, overseeing its financial, academic, and physical resources. The Corporation also holds the power to select and remove Harvard presidents, and it recently used this power to appoint the University’s 29th president. The body has also made historic decisions regarding student social life including finalizing the College’s May 2016 sanctions against single-gender social organizations.

—Staff writer Kristine E. Guillaume can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @krisguillaume.

—Staff writer Jamie D. Halper can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @jamiedhalper.

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