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Luis Ubiñas ’85 Makes a Bid for the Board of Overseers to Pay Back a ‘Debt of Gratitude’

Luis A. Ubiñas '85, a candidate for the Harvard Board of Overseers, pledged transparency if elected to the governing body.
Luis A. Ubiñas '85, a candidate for the Harvard Board of Overseers, pledged transparency if elected to the governing body. By Courtesy of Luis Ubiñas
By Claire Yuan, Crimson Staff Writer

A newcomer to Harvard’s governance scene, Luis A. Ubiñas ’85 is pledging steadfast support for University President-elect Claudine Gay and vowing to bring transparency back to the table.

Endorsed by the Coalition for a Diverse Harvard, Ubiñas — a College and Harvard Business School graduate — is campaigning for a seat on the Board of Overseers, the University’s second-highest governing body.

Chair of Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation and former president of the Ford Foundation, Ubiñas is a nonprofit leader focused on “advancing human opportunity.” He is also an advisor to the United Nations Fund for International Partnerships, serves on the Council on Foreign Relations, and previously worked as a senior partner at McKinsey.

For his work, Ubiñas has been honored by the National Council for La Raza, the NAACP, and the Business School’s Latino Alumni Association.

Ubiñas said his decision to campaign for a position on the Board of Overseers was driven by a desire to pay back a “debt of gratitude” owed to Harvard.

“Much of my life was driven by the fact that Harvard had enough faith in me to invest what to me seemed an imponderable amount of money back then,” he said. “So, when given the opportunity to give back to Harvard, when given the opportunity to to serve in almost any way, I say, ‘Yes.’”

Ubiñas said his family’s background motivates him to facilitate Gay’s transition into her new role. He added that he plans to “provide advice and counsel as needed” to the University’s first president of Afro-Caribbean descent.

“My parents also came to America. My parents also placed an incredibly high value in education, hard work, and the idea that I can be part of her journey, a part of a group of people who want to make the University successful and want to make its president successful, is really important to me right now,” he said.

Ubiñas also said it is important to support Gay to foster “sustained leadership.”

“My hope is that all of us — students, faculty, administrators, alumni — can enter her tenure with the hope and desire for providing her support so that she can make the most of her tenure and we can see her be there for 10 years or maybe even longer,” he said.

Ubiñas said he will commit to increased openness if elected to the Board of Overseers, adding that there is “nothing more clarifying than transparency.”

“I’m deeply personally committed to transparency,” he said.

“We know that transparency at the University and elsewhere — more transparency is typically better,” he added. “It is in disclosure and accountability that better decisions are made.”

Beyond the University’s administration, Ubiñas also said he hopes Harvard will be a forum for fostering “respectful and open” conversations with a wider range of voices.

“The University has a powerful place in our society as being the kind of place where people can meet — people who may even disagree can meet — and have the kind of civil dialogue that we collectively need to have,” he added.

—Staff writer Claire Yuan can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @claireyuan33

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