Yale President Richard Levin announced yesterday the appointment of Helaine Klasky as the new director of the University’s Office of Public Affairs.
Klasky most recently served at the U.S. Department of the Treasury as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs. Her past government experience makes her the fourth OPA chief in the past 10 years to have been a Washington insider. She replaces Larry Haas, who announced in November that he would return to Washington after two years at Yale.
Although Haas departed Yale after a short time, Klasky said she plans to spend many years at Yale. She will take up her new post on May 7 and she spent yesterday afternoon getting acquainted with the staff at OPA.
“I’m committed to Yale and OPA and to being here for many years,” Klasky said. “I know people are thinking, ‘Here’s another one from inside the beltway, will she last a year?'”
Klasky and her husband were both appointed to their government jobs by former President Bill Clinton.
Levin said there was a concern that appointing another Washingtonian might lead to another quick departure, but he said he is certain that Klasky is committed to her new post.
“We assured [Klasky] that life away from Washington could be satisfying professionally,” Levin said.
Before serving at the U.S. Treasury, Klasky worked at the White House as deputy assistant U.S. trade representative for public affairs. Her government career started when she started working on Capitol Hill for Sens. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts and Dennis DeConcini of Arizona.
University administrators said they are happy that Klasky brings international experience to her new post.
“[Klasky’s] international experience will prove very helpful to [Yale] as we try to expand our global visibility,” Levin said.
Klasky will report to University Secretary Linda Lorimer. Lorimer said the University is fortunate to have secured Klasky to join OPA.
“She has incredible energy and enthusiasm,” Lorimer said. “Her experience working with press from around the world will prove especially helpful.”
Klasky said she is happy to make the transition from government to higher education.
“I’m really looking forward to working at Yale,” Klasky said. “I’ve always had a tremendous interest in higher education.”
By leaving Washington for the Ivy League, Klasky is echoing the moves of her former boss, Lawrence Summers. The former secretary of the treasury was recently named the next president of Harvard University.
She added that the intelligent people she encountered at Yale were a main attraction to her new job.
Klasky earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of California at Berkeley. She received a master’s of international relations from American University and a master’s of education from the University of Virginia.
Levin commenced a search committee to find Haas’ replacement soon after the former chief announced his departure in November. Klasky said a headhunter hired by Yale contacted her about the position at the end of the last year.
OPA’s recent directors have all been high-profile government officials. Haas served as former Vice President Al Gore’s chief of communications. Gary Fryer, who served Yale for five years before Haas, worked for former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo. B. Jay Cooper, who served briefly before Fryer, worked for former President George H.W. Bush ’48.
Cooper, like Haas, returned to Washington shortly after coming to Yale.
During Levin’s tenure, the role of the OPA has been greatly expanded. The director attends Yale officers’ meetings and is a special assistant to Levin. The size of the staff has also increased significantly.
Deputy Director of Public Affairs Tom Conroy began serving as interim OPA chief after Haas departed, a post he held once before after Fryer passed away in 1997.