Ellie Park, Photography Editor

The presidents of Stony Brook University and Morehouse College — Maurie McInnis GRD ’90 GRD ’96 and David Thomas ’78 GRD ’86, respectively — will make their way to Yale’s campus this week for their fourth annual meeting as members of the Yale Corporation.

Although the Search Committee has not released formal requirements for the job, the News compiled a list of eight potential candidates in September by examining the shared qualifications of former Yale presidents. The News found that the University’s presidents have often received advanced degrees and amassed a prominent record of scholarly research and publications before also serving as deans, as provosts or in other higher education leadership positions at institutions including Yale.

Both McInnis and Thomas fit those criteria.

“​​If the corporation elected one of their own members as president that would be legitimate and legal,” said Henry “Sam” Chauncey Jr. ’57, former University Secretary and special assistant to former President Kingman Brewster from 1963 to 1972. “It has happened in other colleges and universities, it’s not impossible or unusual.”

Salovey did not directly respond to the News’ request for comment about whether Yale’s by-laws dictate whether a member of the Corporation might be able to ascend to the presidency. McInnis and Thomas did not respond to the News’ request for comment on the same topic — or about whether they would accept an offer, if extended, to become Yale’s 24th president.

University spokesperson Karen Peart responded on behalf of Salovey and the trustees, referring the News to Corporation senior trustee Joshua Bekenstein’s ’80 comment from a search update issued on Jan. 29 that the committee’s “goal is to complete a thorough search that fully considers every potential candidate.”

Yale’s presidential search committee, composed of eight trustees and four faculty members, does not include McInnis and Thomas. Peart wrote that this committee will bring a recommendation to the Corporation and elect the President based on the University Charter.

“We are fortunate to have members from the public and private sector, including leaders from higher education on our board,” Peart wrote. “This allows for a great diversity of perspective and thought and does not pose a conflict.”

McInnis’ and Thomas’ backgrounds

Prior to taking the helm of Stony Brook, McInnis served as a professor, provost and executive vice president at the University of Texas at Austin from 2016 to 2020. McInnis earned her bachelor’s degree in art history with highest distinction from the University of Virginia in 1988 before earning her master’s and Ph.D. degrees in 1990 and 1996, respectively. McInnis also served on the faculty at the University of Virginia for nearly 20 years and served as vice provost for academic affairs from 2013 to 2016.

At Stony Brook, McInnis heralded in a $500 million gift from the Simons Foundation — the “largest unrestricted gift in the history of higher education,” McInnis wrote in an email to the News. Aside from her duties as a successor trustee to the Yale Corporation, McInnis also currently serves as the inaugural board chair of the New York Climate Exchange.

McInnis wrote to the News on April 5 that she finds it “personally fulfilling” to lead Stony Brook, “where excellence and equity are deeply ingrained in its culture.”

“It is a great honor, and it has been exciting to lead the institution to new heights,” McInnis wrote of her current role as Stony Brook president to the News on April 5. “We have set clear and ambitious goals grounded in expanding our impact through our research and scholarship, our engagement in some of the most challenging issues of the day and our extraordinary success in moving students up the economic ladder. And it has been an exciting year at Stony Brook. ”

After earning a bachelor’s in administrative sciences from Yale in 1978, Thomas also earned his master’s and Ph.D. in organizational behavior from the University in 1984 and 1986. Thomas has also served as assistant professor of management at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, as a professor of business administration at Harvard University, and as dean and chair of the Georgetown University McDonough School of Business.

Elected as an alumni fellow to the Yale Corporation in 2011, Thomas currently serves on the boards of Commonfund, DTE Energy and Vanguard. 

If it was McInnis or Thomas, why would it be taking so long? 

Chauncey told the News that McInnis and Thomas “could be the choice” if the Corporation were to elect someone among its own ranks to the presidency.

But Chauncey added that he suspects that if either Corporation member were being considered for the search, they would have been selected sooner. He said that one possible reason why the search has taken so long is that creating an offer for a candidate takes time — especially if the University’s first pick turned their offer down.

“You would have thought if it was one of those two, that they would have come to a decision a little sooner than now; it’s quite late and the search has taken quite a while,” said Chauncey. “Once you get as far as offering it to someone new, that takes quite a while and when your offered person ends up turning it down, you have to go back to scratch and start over again.”

Internal presidential hiring has precedent in the Ivy League. Lawrence S. Bacow was appointed as Harvard University’s 29th president in 2018 while still a member of the Harvard Corporation, concluding a seven-month search process. According to The Harvard Crimson, Bacow agreed to relinquish his spot on the committee in mid-December 2017, six months into its search process.

Former senior fellow of the Harvard Corporation William F. Lee told the Crimson at a press conference announcing Bacow’s selection that the search committee had received many recommendations from within and outside of Harvard in favor of Bacow.

“He went through the same processes our other candidates, but in the end, he emerged as the person who we unanimously and enthusiastically believed was the best choice to lead Harvard forward,” Lee told the Crimson. “He is one of the most respectful, insightful, and experienced leaders in American higher education.” 

The Corporation will meet this Saturday following a private Friday dinner event celebrating outgoing University President Peter Salovey. 

Yale’s presidential search committee is now seven months into its search process to find Salovey’s successor. 

A public update on the search was last released Jan. 29.

“Such a search takes time, discipline, and focus. It is also a confidential process out of respect for everyone being considered,” Bekenstein wrote in that update. “That can limit how much information we can share during the process. Most of all, we look forward to the day when we announce Yale’s next president.”

In its 322-year history, Yale has had 23 presidents, all of whom have been men — with the exception of Hanna Holborn Gray, who served as interim president from 1977 to 1978 — and all of whom have been white.

Benjamin Hernandez covers Woodbridge Hall, the President's Office. He previously reported on international affairs at Yale. Born and raised in Dallas, Texas, he is a sophomore in Trumbull College majoring in Global Affairs.