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Kenneth Frazier, Joseph Bae to Join Harvard Corporation Ahead of Presidential Search

Longtime pharmaceutical executive Kenneth C. Frazier, left, and private equity billionaire Joseph Y. Bae '94 will join the Harvard Corporation.
Longtime pharmaceutical executive Kenneth C. Frazier, left, and private equity billionaire Joseph Y. Bae '94 will join the Harvard Corporation. By Courtesy of Harvard University
By Emma H. Haidar and Cam E. Kettles, Crimson Staff Writers

Kenneth C. Frazier, former longtime CEO and chairman of pharmaceutical giant Merck & Co., and private equity billionaire Joseph Y. Bae ’94 will join the Harvard Corporation, the University announced Sunday afternoon.

Frazier will join the Corporation — the University’s highest governing body — on Feb. 7, filling the vacancy left by David M. Rubenstein’s departure in June 2023. Bae will join the board on July 1, when longtime former treasurer Paul J. Finnegan ’75 concludes his 12-year tenure on the board.

Frazier and Bae were elected by the Corporation and confirmed by the Board of Overseers — Harvard’s second-highest governing body — which both met over the weekend for deliberation about the leadership crisis facing the University.

Frazier, a Harvard Law School graduate, sits on the board of Weill Cornell Medicine and is a member of the HLS Dean’s Council. He formerly served on the boards of Exxon Mobil Corporation and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America.

Frazier notably resigned from the American Manufacturing Council in 2017, after former President Donald Trump’s controversial comments on the white nationalist “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, VA.

He donated at least $5 million to the University in the 2023 fiscal year.

Bae, a co-CEO of global investment firm KKR, serves on the Corporation Committee on Finance, as well as the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Dean’s Council and FAS Committee on Financial Aid. Bae also co-led a group gift of $45 million in 2021 to expand the FAS Asian American studies program.

Harvard’s secretive governing boards — in particular the Corporation — have come under heavy scrutiny over its handling of the University’s leadership crisis. Corporation Senior Fellow Penny S. Pritzker ’81 resisted calls to resign in January.

Bae and Frazier’s appointments help clear the way for the Corporation to announce a presidential search committee to select former President Claudine Gay’s permanent successor.

In past years, presidential search committees were composed of all 12 Fellows of the Corporation, as its members are formally known, and three members of the Board of Overseers, the University’s second-highest governing body.

“Academic excellence and academic freedom lie at the heart of Harvard’s essential mission of teaching, learning, and scholarship,” Frazier told the Harvard Gazette, a University-run publication.

“So does creating a climate for honest, good-faith, respectful discourse on difficult issues, in a spirit of open-mindedness, empathy, and understanding,” he added.

“I look forward to working with the Corporation to meet this challenging moment, to strengthen our university community, and to extend Harvard’s leadership in higher education and research,” Bae told the Gazette.

In a University-wide email announcing the selections, Garber and Pritzker wrote that they are “very much look forward to welcoming both Ken Frazier and Joe Bae to the Corporation.”

“Our work is sure to benefit from their leadership qualities, their wide-ranging expertise and experience, and their devotion to higher education and Harvard,” they wrote.

Bae and Frazier will each serve for a six-year term, with the possibility of extending their tenure for a second term.

—Staff writer Emma H. Haidar can be reached at Follow her on X @HaidarEmma.

—Staff writer Cam E. Kettles can be reached at Follow her on X @cam_kettles or on Threads @camkettles.

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