During talk of the many recent changes in University administration — a new president, a new provost and new Yale Corporation fellows — one small change in Betts House on Prospect Street has gone relatively unnoticed: A new title for Linda Lorimer.
Lorimer, now vice president for global and strategic initiatives, said the title does not change her role, which has brought her to the forefront of Yale’s internationalization efforts and other major projects. Although University President Peter Salovey said he wanted to make her title more specific after hearing that administrators’ roles seem “opaque” to many in the Yale community, other administrators have described her previous titles — “University Secretary” and “Vice President” — as emblematic of the all-encompassing scope of her authority and her close relationship with former University President Richard Levin.
Lorimer and Levin worked together for 20 years: Lorimer served on the search committee that appointed Levin, and the new president promptly offered her a position at Yale. Former members of the Yale Corporation and faculty interviewed said the pair tackled all major University initiatives together. Lorimer’s close relationship with Levin has fueled rumors that she might leave the University in the wake of Levin’s retirement this summer, said Barrington Parker ’65 LAW ’69, a former Yale Corporation fellow.
“Everyone’s wondering what she’s going to do,” Parker said, “and if she’s going to stick around after Rick leaves.”
LORIMER’S NEXT MOVE
Students may know her best from her University-wide emails in times of emergency, but Lorimer has become thoroughly entrenched in University affairs since she arrived to Yale as a law student in 1974.
“It seems like whenever anything important happens at the University, Linda’s always at the middle of it,” said Robert Alpern, dean of the School of Medicine.
Lorimer has worked, in some capacity, for five different Yale presidents. Since her Law School graduation, she has left the University for only two other jobs: Once, to work for a year on Wall Street, and then again to serve as the president of Randolph-Macon Woman’s College for seven years starting in 1986.
Joseph Zolner SOM ’84, a Harvard expert in University leadership, said presidential transitions invite questions over whether high-ranking administrators will join the new administration or leave soon after. Many administrators see presidential transition as a prudent time to re-evaluate their own career paths, Zolner said.
With this aspect of presidential transitions in mind, Salovey said he met with all the vice presidents when he took office to discuss their ideas for the upcoming few years and longer-term futures.
But he said he hopes Lorimer’s new title — which encompasses a wide range of possible projects she could work on — will last her for years to come.
Professor and former School of Management Dean Sharon Oster said she would not be surprised if Lorimer decides to leave Yale, adding that Lorimer may have “one more interesting career move in her.”
“If she does want to, she’s probably going to want to do that one more exciting thing pretty soon,” Oster said.
A WORLD OF POSSIBILITY
If she were to leave the University, Lorimer’s options would not be limited to higher education.
On July 1, the same day Salovey stepped into the presidency, Lorimer also stepped into a new role on the board of directors of Pearson LLC, a multinational publishing and education company — a job that comes with an approximately $100,000 annual paycheck, according to the company’s latest annual report.
Chairman of the Pearson Board of Directors Glen Moreno told the News in an email that they invited Lorimer to the board as part of a global search for new directors. They were impressed, among other things, with Lorimer’s extensive knowledge of university systems and lifelong commitment to education, Moreno added.
But Oster said her foray into the corporate world does not necessarily mean she has one foot out Yale’s door. University administrators regularly hold board positions for non-profits or private-sector companies, and Lorimer has held positions at companies such as McGraw-Hill in the past.
Jose Cabranes, a former University general counsel and member of the Yale Corporation with whom Lorimer worked, said Lorimer would be a very attractive recruit to foundations, museums and other companies, and he knows many employers have appealed to her to leave Yale for other positions.
Cabranes added that if Lorimer had higher aspirations for a school’s presidency, she could have left long ago. The fact that she has stayed at Yale for so long suggests that she has already decided against a university presidency elsewhere.
“At some point she decided she didn’t wish to be a university president or college president. She clearly could have been, and indeed she was,” Cabranes said. “But she was very devoted to Yale, always, and she has remained here.”
And with a new president set to further Yale’s strategies in online education and internationalization, Lorimer may well choose to stay for the long term.
For her part, Lorimer said she has her hands full with her responsibilities. If she chooses to leave, she said she would most likely do so for an extended vacation.
“I would think that after I leave Yale I might well decide to have a well-deserved holiday,” she added, counting on one hand the days off she has had between jobs in her life. “But for now, I have a lot of time here.”