It was a busy summer for Jack Callahan ’80.
As the inaugural senior vice president for operations, Callahan spent the summer working with other high-level Yale administrators on the rollout of a new, more flexible financial system for the University. Since July, the new system — a more modern interface designed by the software company Workday — has processed tens of thousands of paychecks, expense reimbursements and purchase orders.
Callahan returned to Yale in August 2016 to take on the role of senior vice president for operations, a newly created position designed to make Yale more efficient by giving a single leader jurisdiction over the business side of the University. A year into his tenure, he has moved to address a number of structural challenges at Yale, from the recent Workday switch to a broader effort to encourage collaboration among administrative staff in different sectors of the University.
“Jack has been exceptional in this newly created role,” University President Peter Salovey said. “He has jumped in and tackled any number of challenging areas, from IT to finance to HR to compliance.”
In his short time as an administrator, Callahan has also begun long-term financial planning for the Schwarzman Center and Yale’s academic priorities, a set of as-yet-undecided objectives that will likely form the centerpiece of the University’s next big fundraising campaign.
But the major task of the last year was the switch to Workday. The new financial system replaced software designed by another company, Oracle, that Yale had customized heavily over the course of two decades, adding more than a million lines of computer code that made the system difficult to maintain.
One of Callahan’s first actions as senior vice president for operations was to bring together administrative units from across the University to work in concert on the switch to Workday, said Stephen Murphy ’87, Yale’s vice president for finance.
“He became deeply engaged right away,” Murphy said. “His wisdom was a key ingredient in the success.”
In addition to the Workday transition, Callahan said he has worked to promote sustained collaboration among different administrative teams on the Yale staff, encouraging various departments within the Yale School of Medicine to communicate with each other about finances and other issues.
“I’m trying to get more transparency, more active discussion across the staffs, and maybe have a few less silos,” he said earlier this month. “The more an organization can focus on what they’re supposed to be good at, but also have an understanding of the big whole, it’s good for the overall organization.”
The role of senior vice president for operations was a much-needed addition to Yale’s administrative structure, said Sam Chauncey ’57, a former University secretary who served as Callahan’s freshman advisor in the 1970s.
“Yale has gotten big enough and complicated enough that the president needs underneath him a kind of chief operating officer,” Chauncey said.
Over the last year, Salovey said, Callahan’s arrival has allowed Provost Ben Polak to invest greater energy in Yale’s academic mission, as the University continues to refine its academic priorities ahead of the capital campaign.
A native of New Haven, Callahan grew up in Morris Cove, about a block from Tweed Airport, and attended high school in West Haven. After graduating from Yale in 1980, he went to business school at Dartmouth and worked at a series of major firms, including McKinsey & Company and General Electric.
“It’s such a nicer city than it was 30 years ago, between the work that [former University President] Richard Levin and [Vice President for New Haven Affairs] Bruce Alexander have done and good cooperation with the city,” he said. “It looks amazing.”
Callahan joined Yale after six years at the financial services corporation S&P Global, where he served as chief financial officer.
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Correction, Sept. 22: A previous version incorrectly referred to Jack Callahan ’80 as the vice president for operations when in fact he is the senior vice president for operations.