Economics Department Chair Benjamin Polak will succeed Provost Peter Salovey as the University’s second-highest ranking administrator, Salovey announced Monday afternoon to a crowd of faculty and administrators filling Luce Hall to capacity.
The announcement falls roughly two months after Salovey was named Yale’s 23rd president on Nov. 8. Beginning Tuesday, Polak will take over Salovey’s duties as provost — which include overseeing academic policy and faculty committees, as well as serving as chair of the University Budget Committee — while Salovey will spend the next few months preparing to succeed University President Richard Levin on July 1.
“We all love Ben for many reasons,” Salovey told the crowd on Monday. “For this particular job, we especially admire his ability to think strategically, [his] great insights, his very sharp mind … but all of that is combined in a very warm person, someone whom people love to get to know and interact with.”
Polak joined the Yale faculty in 1994 as an assistant professor and has served as chair of the Economics Department since 2010. In his speech during the announcement, he thanked the faculty for placing their trust in him and lauded Salovey for bequeathing him a Yale that survived the financial crisis “with very few scars.” He also stressed the importance of increasing transparency and promoting “evidence-based” decision-making among administrators and faculty.
“Professor Polak will be an invaluable strategic partner to our new President, a strong advocate for excellence in teaching and research, and a wise, fair, and thoughtful steward of the University’s budgetary resources,” University President Richard Levin said in a Monday afternoon email to the Yale community.
Salovey, who led the search for a new provost, said in a December email to the faculty that he wanted to appoint his successor as soon as possible in order to spend the majority of his time this year in conversation with the Yale community about the future of the University.
Yale’s past five provosts have all gone on to assume top positions at major universities.