In a historic first, Harvard University inaugurated new president Claudine Gay on Friday, the first Black person and second woman to lead the university.
“I stand before you on this stage with the weight and the honor of being a first,” Gay told an audience huddled under umbrellas and windbreakers, as rain poured down on the inauguration ceremony in Cambridge.
Gay is the 30th president since Harvard University’s founding in 1640. In her inaugural speech, she spoke of her vision for the Ivy League school.
“I stand before you today humbled by the prospect of leading Harvard, emboldened by the trust you have placed in me, and energized by your own commitment to this singular institution and to the common cause of higher education,” she said.
“The courage of this University — our resolve, against all odds — to question the world as it is and imagine and make a better one: It is what Harvard was made to do,” Gay said.
In an address on Friday afternoon, Massachusetts Governor and Harvard graduate Maura Healey noted the significance of Gay’s presidency
“President Gay, your presidency is truly historic,” Healy said. “You have my admiration and support.”
The Harvard Corporation, the University’s principal governing board, elected Gay after an intensive search.
“Claudine is a person of bedrock integrity,” outgoing president Lawrence Bacow said in the Harvard Gazette. “She will provide Harvard with the strong moral compass necessary to lead this great university. The search committee has made an inspired choice for our 30th president. Under Claudine Gay’s leadership, Harvard’s future is very bright.”
Gay received her Ph.D. in government from Harvard in 1998 and joined the Harvard faculty in 2006.
She received the Toppan Prize for best dissertation in political science, according to the Harvard Gazette.
Gay previously served as Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. She’s also a leading scholar of political behavior and is the founding chair of the Inequality in America Initiative, a multidisciplinary effort launched in 2017 to research social and economic inequality.
CNN’s Amanda Musa and Lauren Mascarenhas contributed to this report.