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Hours after the inauguration of University President Claudine Gay Friday, Massachusetts Governor Maura T. Healey ’92 told The Crimson that Harvard would have a willing partner in the governor’s office under her administration.
Healey praised the intellectual and social diversity that marked her Harvard experience as she recalled fond memories of her time as a student, adding that she is grateful for the University’s contributions to the state’s critical healthcare and research industries.
Healey’s election in 2022 marked the continuation of a longstanding pipeline from Harvard to the governor’s office — more than 40 percent of Massachusetts’ 72 governors have been Harvard graduates, including Healey and her two predecessors: Charlie D. Baker ’79 and Deval L. Patrick ’78.
Calling Harvard “an immensely important institution for Massachusetts” in her speech at Gay’s inauguration, Healey elaborated on the state’s relationship with the University in the context of this summer’s Supreme Court decision on affirmative action and statewide education policy in her first sitdown interview with The Crimson Friday.
In closing her address, Healey pledged that Gay would have “our entire state’s devoted partnership” as president.
“I mean, it’s in our constitution. John Adams wrote it into our state constitution,” she said, in reference to three articles in the Massachusetts Constitution devoted to Harvard — including one that placed the governor on the University’s second-highest governing body, the Board of Overseers.
Still, Healey said the relationship was both “enshrined in law” and “just part of the regular work and discourse.” Healey pointed to several areas of collaboration between the state and Harvard, including criminal justice reform with the law school and addressing healthcare disparities with the school of public health.
The governor added she has previously spoken with Gay “a number of times,” including to discuss “her vision for the University and my vision for the state and how we can align.”
“As governor, I’m looking to tap into, also, this university and its many, many resources and assets as we think about the challenges that confront us,” she added.
Now well into a political career that included an eight-year run as Massachusetts attorney general, Healey said she still finds herself frequently returning to the University, including for Lavender Graduation, as well as at the Harvard Club of Boston speaker events and regular basketball games.
In her address at Gay’s inauguration, Healey cited “equity in higher education” as a key point of collaboration between academia and government to “guide our state’s future.”
As Harvard continues to grapple with the Supreme Court’s decision overturning race-based affirmative action in higher education, Healey said in the interview that the “partnership” between Harvard and the Massachusetts government “really matters.”
“When we were waiting for the Supreme Court’s decision on affirmative action, we organized here as a state,” she said.
Healey said her office “reached out to Harvard, reached out to other colleges and universities” and “had a conversation about what is it that we can do in the face of that decision” to allow universities to ensure a “diverse student body.”
Healey connected her dedication to educational equity to the early days of her career as a civil servant, where she defended the Metropolitan Council for Educational Opportunity, a program promoting voluntary integration in the Boston area.
“I left private practice years ago, joined the attorney general’s office as head of the civil rights division,” she said. “One of the first cases I had was representing and defending the METCO program.”
“This is something I just really believe in strongly,” she added.
Moving forward, Healey said the state and its education systems must “be more intentional about investments” in students of color at every level of schooling.
“Unfortunately, we saw a really bad decision from the Supreme Court on the issue of racism in higher ed,” she said. “But it can’t stop the work that we need to do to make sure that all students and all children have access to education.”
Healey — who studied Government at the College from 1988 to 1992 — spoke affectionately about her own experience as a Harvard student.
“I loved Harvard. I loved Harvard,” Healey said in the interview, smiling.
“I love the whole vibe,” she added, expressing her appreciation for myriad aspects of life at the College, including athletics, the housing system, living in Harvard Yard, and many long-beloved shops in Harvard Square like Pinocchio’s Pizza and Subs and the Harvard Book Store.
Healey said that coming into the Yard from a small town in New Hampshire and seeing “people who just seemed so different from me” was an “eye-opening” experience.
“That’s a really important thing — if you’re going to want to lead — is to have more perspective and have more interaction with people in different lived experiences,” she added. “And that, for me, is something that I think is very special about Harvard.”
In terms of career aspirations, Healey distinguished herself from other Government concentrators at the College.
“If you’re at Harvard you may find yourself meeting or hearing from classmates who just say they want to go into politics or run for office. I was not one of those people,” she said.
Having received several rejections from investment bank recruiting while still a student, Healey went on to play basketball professionally in Europe after graduating.
She went on to Northeastern Law School and eventually made her way to the attorney general’s office.
Healey said her positive experience at Harvard has led her to continue investing in the relationship between the Massachusetts government and the University.
She said Harvard gave her a sense of adventure and purpose.
“You did leave with an appreciation that there is this whole world out there,” she said. “Don’t be afraid to make it your own adventure.”
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