Though Linda Lorimer will relinquish her longtime title of University secretary this summer to become Yale’s first University vice president, administrators say the change will not significantly alter her role.
The job of University secretary has grown throughout Lorimer’s 18 years in the position to include eight different offices spread across Yale, and Lorimer has become one of the University’s elite administrators. As Kimberly Goff-Crews ’83 LAW ’86 assumes the role of secretary, many of the position’s current responsibilities will remain with Lorimer, bringing the Office of the Secretary back to the state it was in when Lorimer was appointed in 1993. While Lorimer will also have fewer responsibilities in her new role of University vice president, both Lorimer and University President Richard Levin said the shift in positions does not indicate that she will leave Yale anytime soon.
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“It symbolizes the recognition that Lorimer’s job had become so huge that to accomplish all the pieces we really needed a second person,” Levin said. “[The position] is going back to what it originally was.”
Throughout Yale’s history, the role of secretary has largely been defined by those who have filled it, Yale historian Gaddis Smith ’54 GRD ’61 said. While many secretaries have had little impact on University policy and served mainly as record-keepers, Smith said Lorimer has been one of the most influential in the past century.
Smith said Lorimer’s approach to the position has closely resembled that of Anson Phelps Stokes 1896, another prominent Yale secretary who served from 1901 to 1921 under then-President Arthur Hadley. Stokes assumed many duties traditionally overseen by the University president, such as fundraising and alumni relations, and was widely expected to be Hadley’s successor until he lost popularity because of his pacifist views during World War I.
Throughout their tenure, Lorimer and Levin have shared responsibilities and jointly executed major University initiatives. The two worked to repair town-gown relations through the New Haven Initiative in the early 1990s and today are leading Yale’s efforts to expand globally with projects such as Yale-NUS College and the Yale India Initiative. Lorimer also serves as one of Levin’s longest-standing advisers.
“President Levin has close relationships with many of his advisers, and he relies on all of them, but I think he and Linda complement one another unusually well,” Penelope Laurans, master of Jonathan Edwards College and special assistant to Levin, said in a Tuesday email. “They each have different strengths but are completely on the same wave length … I think they think and plan with almost wordless understanding.”
Since taking office, Lorimer’s responsibilities have expanded to include overseeing the offices of international affairs, public affairs and communications, digital dissemination, emergency management, and sustainability, in addition to the Association of Yale Alumni and the Yale University Press. Lorimer will retain these added duties as vice president, leaving Goff-Crews with the secretary’s original responsibilities of coordinating the Yale Corporation, organizing major public events and serving as a liaison to the Chaplain’s Office. When Lorimer eventually leaves Yale, Levin said her responsibilities will likely be distributed among the University’s officers.
Levin and Laurans said it made sense that the University gradually gave Lorimer more responsibilities, considering her administrative talent.
“Linda is an idea person,” Laurans said. “She has more energy than three horses running a steeple chase all together. You can’t keep up with her.”
Lorimer said that under Goff-Crews, the secretary role will continue to be a job that those who hold it balance with overseeing other major projects at the University. Lorimer’s predecessor, Sam Chauncey, helped bring coeducation to Yale. When Goff-Crews assumes the position, she will also become the University’s first vice president for student life. Levin said earlier this month that offering Goff-Crews the secretary job both helped recruit the University of Chicago administrator and lightened Lorimer’s workload.
While Lorimer’s new title of University vice president will lack the specification given to all other vice presidents — such as development, human resources and administration, or general counsel — Levin said this designation does not formally elevate Lorimer above the others.
Deputy Secretary Martha Highsmith said the lack of designation is indicative of the broad influence Lorimer holds at Yale.
“I think this is a recognition that her role in the University really is University-wide,” Highsmith said. “She has that peripheral vision that spans the entire University.”
Lorimer came to Yale as assistant general counsel of the University in the fall of 1978.