When University President Peter Salovey sits down with the officers of the University — the administration’s nine most senior leaders — the faces looking back at him are almost identical to those that faced former President Richard Levin a year ago.
With the exception of Salovey and his replacement in the provost’s office Benjamin Polak, the individuals leading the University have remained the same since Salovey moved his belongings from Warner House to Woodbridge Hall on July 1. Administrators interviewed suggested that the causes for the lack of major leadership changes in the upper echelons of the University are twofold: the stasis may be due both to Levin’s recruitment of new administrators during the end of his tenure and to Salovey’s strong working relationship with the leadership team.
“We really have a very strong team of vice presidents and I worked closely with them as provost,” Salovey said. “So given that the team is strong and given that we already have well-honed working relationships, it shouldn’t be surprising that there’s a lot of continuity.”
Still, Salovey and others said that transitions will inevitably happen — said this week.
In the 2011–’12 academic year, Levin recruited two new senior administrators — Joan O’Neill and Kimberly Goff-Crews — to serve as vice president for development and vice president for student life, respectively. O’Neill was a veteran of the Development Office with decades of experience, and Goff-Crews was a former Yale College assistant dean who had also worked on student life issues at Lesley University, Wellesley College and the University of Chicago.
When he hired O’Neill and Goff-Crews, Levin said, he made it clear that he expected them to remain beyond his tenure, which he told them would likely last one to three more years.
“I believed that it was best for the University at a time of transition to have some officer who had substantial experience to help my successor,” Levin said. “[I also wanted] others who were relatively new and could be counted on to stay in office for a long time.”
Levin’s strategy of gradual transition at the uppermost tiers of University leadership mirrored the same dynamic at a slightly lower level. In the last years of the Levin era, a number of administrative deans and deputy provosts stepped down, most notably longtime Deputy Provost Charles Long in 2010. Amidst the departures, younger leaders such as Yale College Dean of Student Affairs Marichal Gentry and Assistant Dean of Academic Affairs George Levesque have stepped into leadership roles.
The newer faces, administrators said, have struck a balance with the long-term leaders who have remained — such as Deputy Provost for Academic Resources Lloyd Suttle, Deputy Provost for Health Affairs and Academic Integrity Stephanie Spangler and Dean of Undergraduate Education Joseph Gordon GRD ’78.
In ensuring this sort of long-term endurance, administrators said, Levin paved the way for a fluid transition between his leadership and Salovey’s, as he also built a robust working relationship with Salovey during the latter’s decade as dean of the Graduate School, Yale College dean and University provost.ember 2012, Joseph Zolner, an expert in higher education administration at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, told the News that University officers would likely see the presidential transition as an opportunity to move to new positions, especially higher ones beyond Yale. At the same time, some administrators speculated publicly about their futures.
“It will depend on two things: what the new president wants, and what I decide I want to do when I have the chance to catch my breath and think about the next part of my professional career,” University Vice President for Strategic and Global Affairs Linda Lorimer said in September 2012 when asked if she would stay at the University after Levin’s departure. “I hope to catch my breath sometime this year and think about what I might want to do.”
But despite a slightly altered job description at Yale and a new position on the board of directors of publishing company Pearson Education — a job with an annual paycheck of approximately $100,000 — Lorimer has stayed. So too, have all of the other officers.
Administrators’ decisions to stay at the University have made the presidential transition a smooth one. And when Salovey stepped into his new role as president, he was a thoroughly familiar face to everyone on his team. Salovey’s intimate knowledge of the University and closeness with its other leaders accounts for what administrators described as a painless leadership change.
Lorimer, who has seen five presidential transitions at Yale, said the transition between Levin and Salovey was the smoothest she had ever witnessed. Lorimer attributed the easy change to the fact that Salovey had nearly a year to formulate his priorities for Yale after his appointment and before his official installation. She added that Salovey had already spent the past several years working with senior administrators while in his former positions. Furthermore, she added, Salovey is “a joy to work with.”
“It seems to me that Yale has the best of both worlds,” Lorimer said. “A president who already knew Yale intimately, and also has his own fresh ideas.”
Lorimer remarked that Salovey has instilled a strong sense of teamwork in the administration, also applauding the series of new initiatives that the new president has brought to the administration.
Over the summer, Salovey instituted a new University Cabinet comprised of academic deans of administrative officers, further encouraging collaboration across the University in a way that had not been done before.
Special Assistant to the President Penelope Laurans said the smoothness of the transition is indicative of a University left on sound footing by Levin.
“Only unhealthy organizations have to change everything at once. Healthy organizations evolve,” Laurans said. “They ensure fresh winds blow in while preserving continuity. Change should be distinct but gradual.”
Salovey said that while administrative changes are inevitable in the coming years, it remains unclear who will be the next to leave, or when they will do so. Other administrators were similarly mum on the topic.
Said Goff-Crews, “We will have to wait and see.”