Peter Salovey, currently Yale’s provost and the Chris Argyris Professor of Psychology, has been named as the University’s 23rd president. His appointment is effective June 30, 2013. He succeeds Richard C. Levin, who assumed the Yale presidency in 1993 and announced his intention to step down earlier this year.
In announcing Salovey’s unanimous selection by the Yale Corporation, the University’s governing board, Senior Corporation Fellow Edward P. Bass noted: “Peter brings a profound understanding of Yale, and great ambitions for advancing the University in the years ahead. The trustees were inspired by Peter’s impeccable integrity and character, and by his unwavering commitment to excellence. These personal qualities, combined with his significant leadership experience, his stature as a scholar, and his deep knowledge of and devotion to Yale, make him the best person to lead Yale well into the 21st century.”
Salovey came to Yale as a graduate student in 1981, and has had three decades of academic and administrative experience at the University. He is the only president in the history of Yale who has served as the chair of an academic department, dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, dean of Yale College, and provost. He is also the latest in a series of Yale provosts who have been selected to lead major universities; his immediate three predecessors went on to head Cambridge, MIT, and Oxford.
Watch highlights from the official announcement
In his administrative roles, Salovey has been instrumental in academic innovation and reform at Yale. As dean of the Graduate School, he oversaw the expansion of programs, facilities, and leadership for the McDougal Graduate Student Center, and improved support for graduate students. Salovey was also a major contributor to the Committee on Yale College Education, which recommended curricular innovations. As dean of Yale College, he swiftly implemented that committee’s recommendations, providing more international opportunities for undergraduates, launching freshman seminars, enhancing writing intensive courses, and instituting rigorous courses that introduced science topics to non-science majors. With former Graduate School Dean Jon Butler, he led the effort to transform the tenure and appointments process within the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, enhancing Yale’s ability to recruit and retain talented early career scholars.
In remarks immediately following the announcement of his appointment, Salovey spoke of his hopes for the future: “To the faculty, students, staff, alumni, and all of the Yale community: I look forward to years of listening to you, being inspired by you, serving you, and collaborating with you to continue to ensure that Yale is a model of higher learning and scholarship, and an inspiration to the world.”
A renowned psychologist
A renowned scholar in the field of psychology, Salovey has authored or edited 13 books, and his work has been translated into 11 languages. He has published more than 350 journal articles and essays, focused primarily on human emotion and health behavior. One measure of his influence is the number of citations of his work: His 1990 article on emotional intelligence, written with his collaborator John D. Mayer, has been cited by other scholars more than 4,500 times.
Salovey’s research focuses on the ways that human moods and emotions affect behavior and decision-making. With Mayer, he developed a broad framework known as “emotional intelligence” to describe how people understand, manage, and use their emotions. His scholarship is interdisciplinary, with applications in public health, business, communications, education, and mental health. Of particular note is his work in applying psychological principles to motivate people to adopt behaviors that protect their health, determining how educational and public health messages can best be tailored to promote prevention and early detection behaviors relevant to cancer and HIV/AIDS. As a researcher, he has been honored with a National Science Foundation Presidential Young Investigator Award, a National Cancer Institute CIS Partner in Research Award, and a Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Excellence Award. He is the founding editor of the Review of General Psychology and was an associate editor of the journals Emotion and Psychological Bulletin.
“To the faculty, students, staff, alumni, and all of the Yale community: I look forward to years of listening to you, being inspired by you, serving you, and collaborating with you to continue to ensure that Yale is a model of higher learning and scholarship, and an inspiration to the world.”
— President-elect Peter Salovey
Salovey’s commitment to student life is evident from his service as a dean, but he is also recognized as a dedicated teacher committed to student learning. He has received two of Yale’s most prestigious teaching awards: the William Clyde DeVane Medal for Distinguished Scholarship and Teaching in Yale College, and the Lex Hixon ’63 Prize for Teaching Excellence in the Social Sciences. As Bass noted: “Peter has an abiding passion for student life. As an imaginative and gifted teacher, we were excited by his insights into the possibilities for using technology to improve the effectiveness and reach of teaching, and his commitment to Yale’s efforts internationally.”
Anna Marie Pyle, the William Edward Gilbert Professor of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology and professor of chemistry, was one of four faculty members who served on the Presidential Search Committee. “Our presidential search has not only resulted in the selection of an outstanding leader for this great university, but it catalyzed a self-study of our institution that provided fresh insights into the needs and aspirations of the Yale community,” said Pyle. “The ongoing dialogue that was initiated during the search will help shape the future of our university and ensure that Yale is the preeminent center of innovation in research and teaching. A wonderful thing about Peter is that he will not only be a great Yale president, but he will always remain my colleague, as his central focus is our success in research and teaching. I look forward to our continued collaboration.”
Echoing Pyle’s comment, another faculty member of the Presidential Search Committee, Sterling Professor of Genetics Richard Lifton, noted, “Peter is an extraordinarily accomplished, passionate, and dedicated citizen of Yale. With his great personal integrity, commitment to the highest ideals of the academy, and embrace of Yale’s diverse missions, he will be a spectacular Yale president. We are fortunate that he is taking on this critical job.”
Several institutions of higher education are also currently engaged in presidential searches, noted committee member Amy Hungerford, professor of English and American studies and master of Morse College. “With so many appealing leadership positions open in peer institutions, we knew we had to work at speed to ensure that we could recruit the best leader for Yale in the national and international field. And I am so happy to say that we have succeeded. Peter's name came up in virtually every conversation about candidates, both inside and outside of Yale. He is recognized both on campus and throughout the world of higher education as a leader of exceptional skill. His ability to lead with others is matched by the importance of his own influential scholarship; his warmth as a person is matched by a sharp sense of Yale's challenges. He is a talented administrator and, at his core, a born teacher. At this crucial moment in Yale's history, it became clear that our best candidate was right here — brilliant, beloved, and ready to lead the university into its next phase of life.”
Yale community engagement key to search process
Today’s announcement follows an intensive search process that began in August immediately after Levin announced his decision to step down at the end of the current academic year. The 12-member Presidential Search Committee included eight trustees and four faculty members. The committee was aided in its work by counselors who gathered information and suggestions from faculty, students, staff, and alumni. The committee also engaged in an extensive program of outreach to the campus and alumni community, as well as to colleagues and peer institutions.
Search Committee Chair Charles W. Goodyear expressed his appreciation on behalf of the committee, saying, “The committee is indebted to the Yale University community for its engagement in the search process. We received many thoughtful comments, and we were impressed by the interest in and commitment to the continued success of Yale that was expressed by the individuals who reached out to us.”
Salovey through the years
During the search process, the committee initially identified and considered over 150 candidates, selected and interviewed a field of first-round candidates at locations around the country, and then conducted additional interviews with finalists before recommending several to the Yale Corporation. The Corporation then assessed and interviewed the final candidates.
"One factor that contributed to our rapid success, and which could not have been predicted or designed, was the remarkable cohesion of the search committee,” notes Pyle. “The members, who come from highly diverse backgrounds, worked exceptionally well together and enjoyed each others' company."
Hungerford adds, “Ask anyone who is the colleague, friend, child, or spouse of a Presidential Search Committee member: Our commitment to this process was total, and our calendars existed, it seemed, only to be rearranged. The thrill of this job was the rigor of the search. The process has clearly had an impact on every part of this institution. The wisdom of the community, even where it embodies differing viewpoints on policy or practice, will be an invaluable endowment for Peter as he begins this new stage of his leadership at Yale.”
New Haven resident for over 30 years
Peter Salovey received an A.B. in psychology and a co-terminal A.M. in sociology from Stanford University in 1980, where he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa as a junior. He holds three Yale degrees in psychology: an M.S. (1983), M.Phil. (1984), and Ph.D. (1986). Salovey was president of the Graduate and Professional Student Senate at Yale in 1983-1984. He joined the Yale faculty as an assistant professor in 1986, has been a full professor since 1995, and is currently the Chris Argyris Professor of Psychology. He served as chair of the Department of Psychology from 2000 to 2003, as dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences from 2003 to 2004, and as dean of Yale College from 2004 to 2008. He was appointed provost in the fall of 2008.
Salovey and his wife, Marta Moret, have lived in New Haven since they arrived as graduate students more than 30 years ago. Moret, a 1984 graduate of the Yale School of Public Health, is the president of Urban Policy Strategies, LLC, which provides program evaluation and technical assistance to community-based health organizations. Moret is also active with the Association of Yale Alumni and has served on its board of governors.
Salovey’s engagement with Yale’s host city was noted by the Presidential Search Committee. Said Goodyear, “The Committee understood the importance of Yale’s continued strong relationship with the City of New Haven. We were impressed by Peter’s commitment to New Haven, by the importance he attaches to the partnership between the city and the university, and by his thoughts about the next stages of this critical relationship.”
Salovey has also entertained New Haven audiences, playing the double bass and singing with The Professors of Bluegrass, a group he and several Yale colleagues and students assembled more than 20 years ago. The Saloveys can often be seen around campus walking their Havanese dog, Portia.
Watch the announcement ceremony in its entirety