Maurie McInnis returns to Yale in a new role: President-elect

Visiting campus Wednesday and “filled with gratitude,” McInnis ’96 Ph.D. reintroduced herself to the Yale community.
President-elect Maurie McInnis, center, meets with former President Richard Levin, left, and current President Peter Salovey on

President-elect Maurie McInnis, center, with former President Richard Levin, left, and current President Peter Salovey on Wednesday. (Photos by Dan Renzetti)

When Maurie McInnis arrived on the Yale campus in the fall of 1989, her belongings jammed into the back of a U-Haul truck and her mind focused on graduate studies in art history, she saw quickly that Yale would change her life.

It did: she emerged a rigorous scholar of cultural history who would go on to a series of academic and university leadership roles, including service as a vice provost at the University of Virginia, provost at the University of Texas at Austin, and, currently, president of Stony Brook University.

Yesterday, she returned to Yale as its president-elect, the unanimous choice of Yale’s Board of Trustees.

With Maurie leading us, we will continue to advance the university’s capacity to teach and pursue life-changing and innovative research to benefit people around the globe,” Josh Bekenstein ’80, the board’s senior trustee and head of the presidential search committee, said at an event formally introducing McInnis as Yale’s 24th president. (Read more about her appointment.)

Maurie McInnis at a lectern
During an event broadcast live online on Wednesday, Maurie McInnis was introduced as Yale’s 24th president.

McInnis, a Yale trustee since 2022, starts in her new role on July 1. She will succeed Peter Salovey, who is returning to the faculty fulltime after 11 years as Yale’s leader.

I can’t wait to begin,” she said in her own remarks Wednesday, which were broadcast live.

McInnis described the profound lessons she learned as a student of art history at Yale — and how the experience transformed her.

I learned how to ask questions and immerse myself in other times, places, and cultures through the lived experience of art, architecture, and artifacts,” she said. “Within the objects that humans produce and conserve, we find echoes of our shared humanity — often not captured in words — of belief, of beauty and horror, of joy and sorrow, of love and loss. My own work as a scholar has attempted to illuminate the past and to make that understanding more broadly accessible to the public.

And the curiosity instilled in me by my experiences at Yale has driven my work as an academic leader as well,” she added. “In fact, one of the most rewarding aspects of leading a university — as well as medical centers and research facilities — is the opportunity it affords me to be exposed to the greatest minds across a breadth of disciplines and lines of inquiry.”

During the 10 a.m. live announcement, McInnis addressed members of the Yale community, expressing her commitment to learning about their work and experiences — and to understanding what the university community wants to see in the future for Yale and for higher education.

My time at Yale has transformed my life, and I understand the trust and responsibility given to me,” she said. “I value the opportunity to work with you, to build on all that you, President Salovey, Provost [Scott] Strobel, and the academic and administrative leaders have accomplished in realizing the academic priorities and advancing Yale’s mission. I know I have big shoes to fill. In my service as an alumna volunteer and trustee, I’ve gotten to know some of you. I look forward to reconnecting, to working with you in a new capacity, and meeting so many more of you. You, your work, and your aspirations make Yale what it is.”

President-elect McInnis, left, with Yale Provost Scott Strobel and Jackson School Dean Jim Levinsohn
President-elect McInnis, left, with Yale Provost Scott Strobel, center, and Jim Levinsohn, dean of the Jackson School of Global Affairs, on Wednesday.

She expressed appreciation for the faculty, students, staff, alumni, and New Haven neighbors. And she thanked President Salovey and First Lady Marta Moret for the kindness they have shown her and her husband Dean, and for the “extraordinary impact” they have had on Yale over the past few decades.

I’m filled with gratitude as I step into the role to lead this university, knowing firsthand the opportunity for learning it provides to students and the impact it has on millions of people around the world through life-changing scholarship and research,” she added. “I have no doubt that there are many exciting times ahead for all of us, and many challenges. Through it all, I will seek the input of the community and urge all of us to listen with empathy and compassion for the experiences of others. Most importantly, I will encourage us to ask ourselves what change we wish to see in the world and how might we best accomplish that.”

We kept in touch’

Members of the Yale faculty from a wide variety of academic disciplines expressed optimism about McInnis’ selection as Yale’s next president.

Maurie and I met when we were both getting started in university administration,” said Pericles Lewis, dean of Yale College and the Douglas Tracy Smith Professor of Comparative Literature in Yale’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences. “She showed a real passion for and understanding of undergraduate education. In those days she oversaw undergraduate education at her [undergraduate] alma mater, the University of Virginia.

We kept in touch, and I was very impressed by her work as provost at Texas, and especially her work as president of Stony Brook, where she developed international partnerships and launched major research projects. She really understands the complex higher education landscape and has a passion for Yale’s mission. I am looking forward to working more closely with her.”

Steve Girvin, the Eugene Higgins Professor of Physics, took special note of McInnis’s experience at Stony Brook and on the Yale Board of Trustees, calling her “well prepared to lead the very complex operation that is Yale University.”

Girvin is also a member of the Co-Design Center for Quantum Advantage at Brookhaven National Laboratory, for which McInnis shares oversight responsibility in her capacity as Stony Brook president.

It is interesting to me to note that Stony Brook is playing a leading role in the New York Climate Exchange, dealing with a crucial topic for our times that spans the arts and humanities, engineering, physical, biological, and social sciences, and medicine,” he said. “I look forward to her presidency.”

Steven Wilkinson, the Nilekani Professor of India and South Asian Studies and professor of political science and international affairs, opened bluntly: “Maurie McInnis is a great choice.”

Wilkinson, also Yale’s vice provost for global strategy and the Henry R. Luce Director of the MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies, described himself as “especially impressed with her initiatives and fundraising on climate change at Stony Brook and, most relevant to my own role, in her demonstrated support for global engagement.”

Ruth Yeazell, Sterling Professor of English at Yale, said she had “long felt that one of the things that distinguishes us from our peer institutions is our unusual strength in the arts, so I find it particularly exciting to have an art historian at the helm.”

I really look forward to meeting [McInnis] and to welcoming her back to Yale,” Yeazell said.

Arne Westad, the Elihu Professor of History and professor of global affairs and director of International Security Studies, focused on McInnis’ combination of scholarship and broad administrative experience.

It is great to welcome Yale’s first permanent female head and a university leader with broad experience from a number of institutions,” he said. “Her work as a historian of slavery and its international representations is of great significance and means that Yale’s new president is steeped in the traditions of scholarship that make this university great.”

And Maurice Samuels, the Betty Jane Anlyan Professor of French and director of the Yale Program for the Study of Antisemitism, described himself as “thrilled that we will have a humanist as the next president of Yale.”

At a time when the humanities are under threat, having a president who is also a renowned historian of art and culture will be invaluable,” he said. “I’m extremely happy about the choice of Maurie McInnis.” 

He added: “I’m also happy that there will be another Maurie at Yale.”

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