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Helena Foulkes to Serve as Harvard Board of Overseers President

Helena Buonanno Foulkes '86 will serve as the president of Harvard's Board of Overseers for the next year.
Helena Buonanno Foulkes '86 will serve as the president of Harvard's Board of Overseers for the next year. By Kathryn S. Kuhar
By Jasper G. Goodman and Kelsey J. Griffin, Crimson Staff Writers

Helena Buonanno Foulkes ’86, a former corporate executive who has held top positions at CVS Health and served as CEO of the Hudson’s Bay Company, will serve as the president of Harvard’s Board of Overseers for the next year, the University announced Monday.

The Board of Overseers, which is made up of alumni who are elected in slates of five to six-year terms, is the University’s second-highest governing body. P. Lindsay Chase-Lansdale ’74, a developmental psychologist who recently stepped down as the vice provost for academics at Northwestern University, will serve as the vice chair of the Board’s executive committee, the school announced.

The Board was previously chaired by entrepreneur and computer scientist R. Martin Chávez ’85 and women’s health physician Beth Y. Karlan ’78.

The announcement comes in the middle of the voting period for the 2021 Board of Overseers election, which features 11 candidates running for five open seats on the Board. The Harvard Alumni Association Nominating Committee put forth eight candidates for election, and three additional candidates backed by Harvard Forward — a student and alumni organization working to call attention to climate action and racial justice issues within the University’s governance boards — qualified for the ballot through a petition process.

Last year, the University moved to limit the number of candidates able to serve on the board who qualify for the ballot via a petition process, instead of selection by the HAA’s nominating committee. The change, which came after three Harvard Forward candidates were elected to the board in Aug. 2020, caps the number of petition candidates at six. If the three candidates backed by Harvard this year are elected to the Board, no alumni may join the ballot through petition until 2026.

“Helena Foulkes and Lindsay Chase-Lansdale have each been insightful, admired, and valued members of the Board these past five years,” University President Lawrence S. Bacow said in a press release. “The combination of Helena’s experience in guiding large and complex organizations through periods of change, and Lindsay’s experience in a central academic leadership role within a major research university, promises to serve the Board and the University well.”

During her time on the Board, Foulkes previously chaired the committee on finance, administration, and management and participated in committees focused on natural and applied sciences, inspection, and governance. As the director of the National Bureau of Economic Research and a board member for various nonprofit and for-profit organizations, she has been listed in Fortune magazine’s annual ranking of the most powerful women in business four times.

“I feel incredibly fortunate to be part of the Harvard community and will do all that I can to help in these challenging times,” Foulkes said in a press release. “President Bacow, working alongside the governing boards, and the administration, faculty, students, and alumni have been amazingly resilient in this last year, and my Overseer colleagues and I will do our best to help guide the University through this next chapter.”

Chase-Lansdale chaired the Board’s committee on schools, the college, and continuing education. Her priorities as Northwestern vice provost for academics included promoting faculty diversity and supporting students of color and first-generation and low-income students. She said in the press release her tenure as the Board’s vice chair will focus on “addressing inequities in the academy and in society.”

“I am deeply honored to serve as vice chair and to collaborate with President Bacow, Provost Garber, the Harvard leadership, and my colleagues on the Board of Overseers to foster even greater excellence at Harvard,” Chase-Lansdale said.

—Staff writer Jasper G. Goodman can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @Jasper_Goodman.

—Staff writer Kelsey J. Griffin can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @kelseyjgriffin.

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