Salovey to step down
In a Thursday morning email to the University community, Peter Salovey announced that this will be his eleventh and final year as Yale’s president; he intends to depart this summer.
Tim Tai, Senior Photographer
Peter Salovey’s time as president of Yale University is set to end on June 30.
Just three days into the 2023-24 academic year, Salovey announced his intent to depart as president of the University this summer. Salovey, who is 65, did not specify a particular reason for his departure, which he did not classify as a retirement.
“I’ve been in higher administration — dean, provost and president — for 21 years, and at a personal level, it just felt that the time was right,” Salovey said in an interview this morning with the News in advance of the announcement’s release. “I very much want to finish my career at Yale, and I wanted to finish the way it started. I started as a graduate student and then as a professor, teaching and writing, doing research. I want to come full circle.”
Salovey wrote that should the search for his successor not be complete by June 30, he has expressed to Yale Corporation senior trustee Joshua Bekenstein ’80 his willingness to extend his tenure to provide “leadership continuity.”
Ultimately, he said he plans to return to the Yale faculty, work on writing and research projects and help with University fundraising.
“There is no perfect moment for one — there is always more to do,” he wrote in the announcement. “Yet, I believe the best time to search for a new leader is when things are going well. It allows for a thoughtful process and a smooth transition.”
Within the first paragraph of his announcement, Salovey noted the “very good news” that Yale’s “For Humanity” fundraising campaign surpassed a whopping $5 billion milestone over the summer, climbing toward the University’s total $7 billion goal.
Salovey expects his future role in University fundraising to remain similar after his departure as president, he told the News this morning.
“Beyond this year, I will stay deeply involved in fundraising, appearing at events [and] meeting with alumni and friends,” Salovey said. “I don’t think you’re going to see much change in my fundraising as president and as president emeritus.”
Before starting as president of the University in 2013, Salovey served as Yale’s provost from 2008 to 2013, as dean of Yale College from 2004 to 2008 and dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences from 2003 to 2004. He received two undergraduate degrees in sociology and psychology from Stanford University in 1980 and three graduate degrees from Yale all in psychology. He is credited with co-developing the “emotional intelligence” framework, which is the theory that just as people can have a range of intellectual abilities, they also have a range of measurable emotional skills.
Salovey’s predecessor, Richard Levin, stepped down after 20 years as president on June 30, 2013. Levin, who was also 65 at the time, was the most senior president in the Ivy League and reportedly one of the longest-serving in University history, according to the New York Times.
Levin began to consider stepping down after securing labor contracts with Yale unions over the summer of 2012. During Levin’s tenure, clerical, maintenance and service employees went on major strikes twice in 1996 and then again in both 2002 and 2003.
In 2009, the University and its two main unions at the time — Local 35, which represents dining hall and maintenance workers, and Local 34, which represents clerical and technical workers — agreed on new three-year agreements nine months before their then-current contracts expired.
The University has fought graduate students’ efforts to unionize for decades. Salovey’s announcement comes just under eight months after Yale’s graduate and professional student workers voted to unionize; the University officially recognized the election’s results and confirmed that it would begin “bargaining in good faith” with Local 33.
“I had been thinking about it, thinking it was one or two more years more, and I think once the labor contract was settled I thought at least it makes it possible to go now,” Levin told the News when he announced his intention to leave the role on Aug. 30, 2012.
Salovey was offered the position on Nov. 8 of the same year.
But four years before Salovey was officially offered the position, speculation swirled that Levin had essentially selected his own successor when he picked Salovey to serve as provost.
“Peter Salovey will certainly be one of the people that would be among those who could be candidates for the future, obviously,” Levin told the News in 2008. “He’s done all the key leadership jobs in the University at this point. I have a lot of confidence in Peter, and the Corporation does as well.”
To fill Levin’s shoes, a presidential search committee directed by the Yale Corporation — the board that governs the University — considered more than 150 candidates.
Berkstein told the News that the board of trustees has already kickstarted efforts to tap Yale’s next president.
“The first thing we’re going to do is get a lot of input from the Yale community,” Bekenstein told the News this morning, discussing the process of finding Salovey’s successor. “We named eight trustees to the search committee, and we’re going to add four faculty.”
Among other accomplishments throughout his time as president, Salovey highlighted in his announcement progress on campus facility construction and renovation as well as on increasing diversity within the student body. Salovey told the News that increasing the size of Yale College, creating multidisciplinary centers like the Humanities Quadrangle, creating innovation centers such as the Tsai Center for Innovative Thinking at Yale — Tsai CITY — and increasing the share of first-generation, low-income students on campus helped to accomplish his goals.
“Of course, I respect scholarship for its own sake, but I also want Yale to have great impact on the world, ” Salovey told the News this morning. “I would say we are, as compared to 10 years ago, indeed, more accessible, more unified and more innovative.”
While Salovey thanked university groups including trustees, deans, faculty members and staff in his announcement, he thanked only his wife, Marta Elisa Moret, by name. He also made note that Moret, who graduated from the School of Public Health in 1984 and is president of New Haven public health consulting firm Urban Policy Strategies, pushed off her retirement to support Salovey in his role as president.
“I appreciate that she has delayed her full retirement to help me in a role not characterized by work-life balance,” he wrote.
Salovey and Moret met during their graduate studies at Yale.
Correction, Aug. 31: This article has been updated with the correct spelling of senior trustee Joshua Bekenstein’s name.