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Tilghman to join Harvard Corporation

University President Emerita Shirley Tilghman will be joining the Harvard Corporation in January.


The Harvard Corporation is the oldest corporate body in the United States, and is also known as the President and Fellows of Harvard College, according to the corporation homepage.

Tilghman will be replacing Harvard advisor James Rothenberg, who unexpectedly passed away in July.

Though joining the Harvard Corporation Board is a significant commitment, Tilghman explained that her role at the University will not be altered. She will continue to teach, and will remain a fully committed full time faculty member for the next few years, she said.

Tilghman explained that one reason that she joined the Board is her commitment to public service. She noted that she had greatly benefited during her tenure as University president from the presence of former Ivy League presidents on the Board, such as former Brown president Ruth Simmons.

“I know how valuable it is to have a former University president serving on the Board who can often represent the idiosyncrasies of higher education to other members of the Board,” Tilghman said.

Harvard President and senior Board member Drew Faust did not respond to a request for comment.


Tilghman added that though there will be many opportunities to be helpful as a Board member, her first role is to listen and learn. She will be paying particular attention to how Harvard and its president are thinking about the future, she said.

“Although I have served as an advisor to Harvard for many years in the past in various capacities, it’s very different when you serve as a member of their corporation,” Tilghman explained.

The selection process began as a conversation between the current members of the corporation, who then made a recommendation to the separate Board of Overseers, she said. The Board of Overseers is a larger group of advisors at Harvard, who then must vote on the final recommendation for a new Corporation Board member.

Out of the thirteen-member board, only Tilghman and former Wilson School professor Nannerl Keohane are not Harvard alums. When asked if this fact was significant, Tilghman replied that her experience as an Ivy League president likely carried the most weight.

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Keohane did not respond to a request for comment.

In addition, Tilghman said that because she is a scientist she can be helpful regarding one of the major parts of the University’s academic mission. She can contribute not only to affairs concerning the prestigious Harvard Medical School, Tilghman noted, but also regarding the various other science matters on the Cambridge campus.

Tilghman does have ties to Harvard University, having recently overseen a comprehensive review of Harvard life sciences. She also was awarded an honorary doctorate from Harvard in 2004.