“Our stories − and the stories of the many trailblazers between us − are linked by this institution’s long history of exclusion and the long journey of resistance and resilience to overcome it,” Gay said Friday in her inaugural address. “And because of the collective courage of all those who dared to create a different future, I stand before you on this stage able to say, ‘I am Claudine Gay, the president of Harvard University.’”
In her speech, Gay shared her vision of the institution’s future.
“Asking 'Why not?' should be a Harvard refrain − the willingness to sound foolish, risk ridicule, be dismissed as a dreamer. We’ve seen it time and again − the courage to take a chance, even when success seems beyond reach. And the courage to collaborate, to listen, to compromise, to grow,” she said.
Since 2018, Gay served as dean of Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences, the university’s largest and most academically diverse faculty, according to her biography page. She first joined Harvard in 2006 as a professor of government, then began teaching African American studies the year after.
“As a Black woman, it’s just so incredible to have somebody who looks like me, from a similar background from me, achieve so much,” Leticia Sefia, a Harvard junior, told the Harvard Gazette.
Gay, a daughter of Haitian immigrants, earned a bachelor’s degree in economics in 1992 from Stanford. She earned a Ph.D. in political science at Harvard in 1998. She taught political science at Stanford University from 2000 to 2006.
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Harvard university inaugurates first Black president Claudine Gay