For the first time in its nearly 400-year history, four of Harvard University’s academic departments will be led by African-American women.
Professor Claudine Gay, the latest appointee, will become the first woman and the first African-American to lead the university’s prestigious Faculty of Arts and Sciences, according to The Crimson Harvard.
Gay, who begins her new duties on Aug. 15, said she was inspired by Drew Faust, a former Harvard president who was the first female to assume the post.
“If my presence in this role affirms someone’s sense of belonging and ownership, the same way Drew’s appointment affirmed my own sense of belonging, then I think that’s great,” Gay said in a statement.
Gay will join three other Black women currently seated as department heads. In 2016, Michelle A. Williams became the first Black female to lead the Longwood-based School of Public Health. Tomiko Brown-Nagin and Bridget Terry-Long were also the first Black women to become deans of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study and the Graduate School of Education, respectively, in April and May.
“Each of these exceptional individuals was selected because they enjoy reputations as distinguished scholars and educators, and because they are widely admired by their colleagues as extremely effective academic leaders,” said Harvard President Lawrence Bacow. “They were selected not because of their race or gender but because they each rose to the top of a rigorous search process.”