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Harvard President-Elect Claudine Gay Names Katherine O’Dair Chief of Staff

Katherine O'Dair, then the Harvard Dean of Students, speaks about PAFs and sanctions in her office in 2019.
Katherine O'Dair, then the Harvard Dean of Students, speaks about PAFs and sanctions in her office in 2019. By Naomi S. Castellon-Perez
By Miles J. Herszenhorn and Claire Yuan, Crimson Staff Writers

Harvard President-elect Claudine Gay named Katherine O’Dair, who currently serves as University Marshal, to be her chief of staff Tuesday afternoon — the first addition to Gay’s presidential team as she prepares to move into Massachusetts Hall later this summer.

The appointment marks O’Dair’s second new position in Harvard administration in less than one year. O’Dair was named University Marshal in August, a role she will retain while serving as Gay’s chief of staff.

The announcement suggests Gay will make further appointments to her presidential administration in the coming weeks before she assumes the presidency on July 1.

Gay said in a press release that O’Dair will serve as “a key partner and adviser in advancing the president’s strategic priorities and a primary liaison to leaders across the institution.”

Prior to her appointment as University Marshal, O’Dair served as Dean of Students since her arrival at Harvard in 2016. She previously worked as a higher education administrator at Boston College and MIT.

O’Dair is currently overseeing the planning of Gay’s presidential inauguration in her role as University Marshal. Gay is set to be sworn in as the 30th University president on Sept. 29.

As chief of staff, O’Dair will supervise administrative operations of the Office of the President and oversee Gay’s presidential agenda. The role will also likely require O’Dair to frequently accompany Gay when she travels on University business.

Gay praised O’Dair for her “deep compassion, thoughtful intensity, and inclusive leadership.”

“Katie’s track record of successful leadership in complex environments, and the respect that she has earned from colleagues across Harvard’s schools, make her an ideal partner,” she said in a Tuesday press release.

“Her broad portfolio will strengthen connections within Harvard and with the larger community beyond Harvard, in keeping with my commitment to ensuring that Harvard, in its values and structures, is engaged in the world,” Gay added.

O’Dair said in the release that it was a “privilege to join President-elect Gay’s team and I am inspired to support her vision for a Harvard that is deeply connected to the world.”

“I am deeply grateful to President-elect Gay for the opportunity to bring my experience to this new and exciting role, and look forward to working with the talented team in the president’s office to support her leadership at this exceptional institution,” she said.

—Staff writer Miles J. Herszenhorn can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @MHerszenhorn.

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

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