In his third month on the job, Jack Callahan continues to find new responsibilities as Yale’s inaugural vice president for operations.
Last year, University President Peter Salovey was in the process of searching for someone to fill the vice president for operations position, adding another new role — in addition to vice president for communications — to his 25-person advisory cabinet. In June, Salovey announced that Callahan would be the first person to serve in the vice president for operations role. Now, Callahan continues to adjust to the job, which includes overseeing University operations and serving in Salovey’s cabinet.
“I am working with the cabinet to really help think about the path forward,” Callahan said. “This is a remarkable institution, so our job is to preserve its existing strengths but then also to start to focus on what we can do to improve both student life and to strengthen some academic areas over the long term.”
Callahan’s role was “badly needed,” according to longtime University Administrator Sam Chauncey ’57, who was Callahan’s advisor while Callahan was a Yale undergraduate. Chauncey said Callahan’s background — he left his position as chief financial officer for S&P Global to come to Yale this summer — makes him well-suited for the new position.
Salovey told the News that the administrative and academic priorities of the University “function hand in hand,” and that Callahan has joined other University leaders including University Provost Ben Polak, Vice President for New Haven & State Affairs Bruce Alexander ’65 and Vice President for Human Resources and Administration Michael Peel in pursuing the University’s mission.
“In creating the position of senior vice president, I envisioned oversight of the University’s administrative operations akin to the academic leadership provided by the provost,” Salovey said.
Having Callahan oversee operational duties will allow Salovey and Polak to focus on the academic mission of the University, Chauncey said.
The responsibilities a vice president for operations takes on will range from working with human resources and Information Technology Services, to managing the pension plans for retired employees and overseeing campus buildings and grounds, Chauncey added.
“The single most important part of Mr. Callahan’s role will be that he will ultimately be able to relieve the president and provost of some of the things that they’ve had to worry about, or that other people have had worry about, and consolidate it under a single individual,” Chauncey said. “Yale is a very large and very complex place, and you need somebody who can see how the place operates.”
Callahan, a New Haven native, said he had been intrigued by the prospect of returning to Yale for several years before a headhunter called him during the search process to fill his role last year.
Prior to taking the position, Callahan said he consulted with former University Secretary Linda Lorimer, who was part of the team that initially recruited Callahan to S&P, and later served on his board at the company. Lorimer was supportive of his transition to Yale and called Salovey’s creation of the operations role “inspired.”
“I am thrilled that [Callahan] has come home to New Haven and Yale to create this new senior administrative position,” Lorimer told the News. “He has the enormously impressive combination of humility, commitment to cause and ability to deliver results.”
Salovey said that because Callahan is a Yale College graduate, he not only brings business expertise to the role, but also an intimate understanding of the University and its principles. That background has already been instrumental to Callahan’s leadership this fall on the University cabinet, Salovey added.
Chauncey said Callahan has started his time in the position by spending time with faculty, administrators and students. Indeed, Callahan told the News that during his early days in the new role he has emphasized building relationships with faculty members, and specifically chose to have his office at Whitney Grove Square to be near the Office of the Provost.
He added that he is arranging meetings with each of the professional school deans, and seeks to build strong relationships across the different schools.
“I am not the boss,” Callahan said. “I am serving the faculty in the mission of achieving what they’re trying to do. You have to go in with that attitude. This is a big complex place. I just want to be sure that I can have the right working relationships so if people think there’s an issue, I can resolve, that I hear about it.”
Callahan said he has no shortage of ideas for his work at the University, and is especially interested in examining how a complex organization functions and where the University should invest its time and money. He added that since Yale’s administrative structure is largely decentralized, part of his role is understanding what central leadership can do for the larger institution.
In interactions with global leaders during his tenure at S&P, Callahan said that individuals spoke highly of the University’s research and emphasis on “learning to really impact society.” Nonetheless, Yale will also have to work hard to maintain its global reputation, he said. Yale is “a few steps ahead relative to the corporate world,” Callahan added, and there are still plenty of opportunities to move the University forward.
Another of Callahan’s goals is increasing the University’s transparency, he said, acknowledging that he may have felt a lack of transparency as a student. The broader community might not always understand the process through which decisions at the University are made, he added.
“Well-meaning people get in rooms and have some tough trade-offs. In the end, some things work out and some things don’t,” Callahan said. “Everyone wants to find the right path and do the right thing. Somehow there’s a perceived mystery and secrecy [about the process] that’s not at all real.”
Callahan is a former consultant for McKinsey & Company.
Ishaan Srivastava contributed reporting.