Harvard inaugurates first Black president

Published: Oct. 2, 2023 at 11:31 AM CDT
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CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (WCVB) - Harvard University has a new president.

Claudine Gay took the oath Friday, making her the first Black president in the Ivy League university’s nearly 400-year history.

“I stand before you on this stage with the weight and the honor of being a first able to say, I am Claudine Gay, the president of Harvard University.” She said.

“So I have no doubt that Claudine Gay will come into this role with a lens that we’ve been waiting for for 400 years, quite frankly,” said Michael Curry, an NAACP board member. “If you want to do something around diversity, bring people with lived experience who understand and have a sense of urgency.”

“Why not improve health care in Haiti and Rwanda? Why not get the innocent off death row? Why not map the 100 billion neurons of the brain or close persistent gaps in education from pre-K to adult learners?” Gay said during her inaugural speech.

“The university has taken a lot of dramatic actions to ensure that Harvard is not off limits because of who you are, where you come from, who you love or how much money you have,” said Dr. Priscilla Douglas, chair of the Boston Public Library.

Undergrads said they are already proud.

“Kind of reassuring to see that it is possible for a woman to kind of be in a position like that,” Diana Shaari said.

When asked what she thought about the president being only 53, student Ezekiel Wells said, “I mean, again, it’s just even more encouraging. I’d say, I think it’s about time. She is very impressive, and I think I’m very excited. I think it’s a little bit overdue.”

Gay said Harvard has an outsized capacity to do good and should work toward helping poverty, disease and war.