Diaspora

Powerful Haitian women: Claudine Gay the first Black President of … – caribbeannationalweekly.com

Claudine Gay is a political scientist and university administrator. On July 1, 2023, she will become the 30th and first Black President of Harvard University. She serves as Harvard’s Wilbur A. Cowett Professor of Government and of African and African-American Studies, and Edgerley Family Dean of the Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences. She is vice president of the Midwest Political Science Association.
Gay grew up the child of Haitian immigrants to the United States; her parents met in New York as students (her mother studying nursing, and her father engineering.) Gay is a cousin of writer Roxane Gay.
Gay spent much of her childhood first in New York, then in Saudi Arabia where her father worked for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Her mother was a registered nurse. Gay attended Phillips Exeter Academy, then studied economics at Stanford University, receiving the Anna Laura Myers Prize for best undergraduate thesis in economics. Gay earned her Ph.D. (1998) from Harvard, winning the university’s Toppan Prize for best dissertation in political science.
Gay’s research addresses American political behavior, politics of race and identity, and voter turnout, among other topics.
Though Gay has not previously held a presidency, she has a long history with Harvard. She earned her Ph.D. in government at the university in 1998, and in 2008 joined the faculty in the Department of African and African American Studies, where she first taught before later climbing the administrative ranks. in July 2015, she became Dean of Social Science at Harvard University. In July 2018, she was named the Edgerley Family Dean of the Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
Prior to Harvard, she taught at Stanford University, where she earned her undergraduate degree in economics. Gay served as assistant professor, then associate professor in Stanford’s Department of Political Science from 2000 to 2006. In the 2003-2004 academic year, Gay was a fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences.
At a university event announcing her appointment, Gay reflected on her journey from the child of poor Haitian immigrants who believed firmly in the power of education to a career in academe, leading right up to the Harvard presidency.
“My parents are immigrants from Haiti. They came to the U.S. with very little and put themselves through college while raising our family,” Gay said. “My mom became a registered nurse and my dad a civil engineer. And it was the City College of New York that made those careers possible. College was always the expectation for me. My parents believed that education opens every door.”
 
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