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The list of Yale alumni in the Biden administration continues to grow, with four new names added to the list in recent weeks.

Two Yale Law School alumni, Brian Deese LAW ’09 and Gina Raimondo LAW ’98, were nominated to President Joe Biden’s economic team as director of the National Economic Council and secretary of commerce, respectively. Maggie Thomas ENV ’15 was named chief of staff of the new Office of Domestic Climate Policy, and Vivek Murthy MED ’03 SOM ’03 was named surgeon general.

“I will say that we are all proud that these and other Yale alumni continue Yale’s legacy of service to our country, following in the footsteps of other Yalies who have served on the national, state, and local levels,” Weili Cheng, executive director of the Yale Alumni Association wrote in an email to the News.

A former Rhodes Scholar and venture capitalist, Raimondo graduated from Yale Law School in 1998 and was elected an alumni fellow in 2014. She served as the first female governor of Rhode Island since 2015. Her notable efforts to bolster the Rhode Island economy include cutting taxes, raising the state minimum wage, financing infrastructure on a large scale and expanding leave for employees.

As secretary of commerce, Raimondo will be responsible for economic growth and development and communicating with businesses, workers and communities.

Raimondo has communicated plans to support the cabinet’s climate initiatives as well.

“We need to recognize that tackling climate change goes hand-in-hand with creating good-paying jobs,” Raimondo said in an interview with Transport Topics. “As governor, I expanded clean-energy jobs, oversaw construction of the nation’s first offshore wind farm and put Rhode Island on a path to 100-percent renewable power.”

Recently, a group of GOP lawmakers expressed support for delaying Raimondo’s Senate confirmation hearing since she has not confirmed a negative stance against the Chinese telecommunications company Huawei, which they consider a threat to national security. Raimondo, nominated Jan. 7, was approved as a nominee Wednesday by a 21 to 3 vote of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, but her position awaits final confirmation by a full Senate vote.

Also a graduate of Yale Law School, Deese previously served in the Obama administration as a senior advisor to the president and deputy director of the National Economic Council. During that time, he played a lead role in the United States’ entry into the Paris Climate Agreement.

As director of the National Economic Council, Deese will be in charge of implementing the president’s economic policy goals. Since his appointment, environmental activists on the left — such as the campaign “No Corporate Cabinet” — have questioned his commitment to tackling climate change due to his current role as the global head of sustainable investing at BlackRock. Deese has spoken out about his climate-related goals, saying that when the economy recovers from the pandemic, he wants to focus on building up the American economy while being cognizant of sustainability.

Deese’s position, announced by Biden on Dec. 3, does not require Senate confirmation.

Thomas, who studied federal environmental policy at Yale School of the Environment and graduated in 2015, was most recently the political director of climate group Evergreen Action. She also served as a climate advisor to Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee during their presidential campaigns. Thomas has withdrawn her name from the ballot of the Yale Corporation, the University’s highest governing body, to take on her White House role.

She will work closely with National Climate Advisor Gina McCarthy to develop and carry out the Biden administration’s climate goals, including reducing carbon emissions, developing clean energy infrastructure and working towards environmental justice.

Thomas’ position, announced on Jan. 14, also does not require confirmation from the Senate. 

Murthy, who made history as the first surgeon general of Indian descent when he served in the Obama administration from 2014 to 2017, holds degrees from the School of Medicine and School of Management. He is returning to his role as surgeon general after being dismissed by former president Donald Trump in 2017.

Before serving as surgeon general, Murthy directed thousands of Commissioned Corps public health officers in their efforts to treat underserved populations and founded the nonprofit Doctors for America. He is currently the co-chair of Biden’s COVID-19 Advisory Board. Murthy’s nomination received support from many U.S. public health organizations, as well as former surgeon generals David Satcher and Regina Benjamin. Murthy emphasized the importance of speeding up the administration of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Murthy, nominated on Dec. 7, also awaits Senate confirmation.

“I do think there is something really unique about the fact that certain Yalies decide to make a difference in the world,” said E.J. Crawford, senior director of communications and marketing of the Yale Alumni Association. “I think there is something special about the people who are able to take what they’ve learned and translate it into improving the lives of other people. I think that’s a really noble goal, and the fact that you see so many people from Yale doing so, I think is very admirable.”

Biden took office on Jan. 20 and has finished announcing his cabinet nominations.


Grace Zhang | grace.y.zhang@yale.edu