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Harvard CFO Thomas Hollister To Retire in June 2023

Thomas J. Hollister follows a string of other top Harvard administrators who have announced plans to depart.
Thomas J. Hollister follows a string of other top Harvard administrators who have announced plans to depart. By Courtesy of Harvard Public Affairs and Communications
By Eric Yan, Crimson Staff Writer

Harvard Vice President for Finance and Chief Financial Officer Thomas J. Hollister will step down and retire at the end of the academic year after eight years serving in the role.

Harvard Executive Vice President Meredith Weenick announced Hollister’s departure in an email to the University’s central administration Thursday morning.

“From the time he came into the CFO role, Tom brought an intentional focus to deepening understanding across our community of the University’s finances, building consensus around collective institutional priorities, and laying the foundations for long-term financial sustainability,” Weenick wrote.

Hollister, who has served as Harvard’s top financial officer since 2015, is credited with preparing the University for the financial challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic. In 2019, Hollister led recession planning with financial teams across Harvard to ensure the school was well-positioned for future economic downturns.

“Prior to the pandemic, higher education faced ongoing financial pressures that Tom knew we must account for as we plan our operations and financial management,” Weenick wrote in her email. “His diligent planning efforts to prepare for times of financial hardship positioned the University to remain adroit and resilient in carrying out our teaching and research mission through the evolving public health crisis.”

Harvard’s finances have remained resilient throughout the pandemic. After suffering a $10 million budget deficit in fiscal year 2020, the University has enjoyed healthy budget surpluses for the past two years. The school’s operating surplus reached $406 million in fiscal year 2022.

University President Lawrence S. Bacow called Hollister a “phenomenal mentor, a thoughtful adviser, and an extremely sophisticated financial strategist” in a statement in the Harvard Gazette, a University-run publication.

“His understanding of priorities across the University, both at the center and in the schools, has advanced his work with the Corporation and other leaders. He has positioned us well for the future,” said Harvard President Lawrence S. Bacow. “We’ve been tremendously fortunate to have benefited from his knowledge and wisdom.”

The announcement comes amid a major shakeup in University leadership. In June, Bacow announced he will retire at the end of the academic year.

Hollister served in an array of financial roles prior to joining Harvard, including chairman and president of Citizens Bank of Massachusetts, chairman and president of Charter One Bank, vice chairman of Citizens Financial Group, and chief operating officer and chief financial officer of Global Partners.

“It has been an incredible privilege to serve the University and to play a role in such a preeminent teaching and research institution, an extraordinary force for good in our world,” Hollister said.

Weenick wrote that the search process is underway for Hollister’s successor. An executive search firm and search advisory committee will be announced in the coming weeks.

—Staff writer Eric Yan can be reached at eric.yan@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @ericyan0.

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Central AdministrationUniversity FinancesFront Middle Feature