Harry Elam named 16th president of Occidental College

Feb. 11, 2020, 12:43 p.m.

Harry Elam, vice provost for undergraduate education, vice president for the arts and senior vice provost for education, will become the 16th president of Occidental College on July 1, Stanford President Marc Tessier-Lavigne announced on Tuesday. 

“While this is bittersweet news for all of us who work closely with Harry, I am delighted for him and for the students, faculty, and staff at Occidental, who will get the benefit of Harry’s wise leadership and his unwavering focus on improving education and the student experience,” Tessier-Lavigne wrote in an email to the Stanford community. 

The announcement comes after Provost Persis Drell announced in October that Elam would be stepping down as vice provost for undergraduate education at the end of the academic year. However, his wife Michele Elam will remain on faculty as the William Robertson Coe Professor in the Humanities in the English department and as associate director of the Institute for Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence (HAI). 

Tessier-Lavigne also announced that the search has already begun for the next vice provost for undergraduate education. 

“I am also committed to maintaining the tremendous progress that Harry has made in making Stanford a vibrant home for the arts, and we will be looking closely at how to continue this work after Harry’s departure,” Tessier-Lavigne wrote. 

Since arriving at Stanford in 1990, Elam has created programs that have become a cornerstone of the undergraduate experience. He reimagined undergraduate education by supervising the creation of Thinking Matters and WAYS education requirements. He also launched programs such as the Leland Scholars and Frosh 101 to ease the transition to college for incoming freshman.

A staunch supporter of the arts, he implemented a creative expression requirement for undergraduates, created Stanford in New York, designed Arts Intensive — a preterm arts-focused program for students of all majors — and launched the Stanford Institute for Diversity in the Arts in 1996. 

Elam told The Daily in December that the best part of his job is working with students. 

“As an administrator it’s about leading, but it’s also about serving,” he said. “And they gotta go together. So it’s not just about deciding on new programs or finding new pathways and charting out a vision. It’s also sitting down with students and serving their needs and thinking about how that comes.”

Contact Emma Talley at emmat332 ‘at’ stanford.edu.

Emma Talley is the Vol. 265 Executive Editor. Previously, she was the Vol. 261 Editor in Chief. She is from Sacramento, California, and has previously worked as a two-time news editor and the newsroom development director. Emma has reported with the San Francisco Chronicle with the metro team covering breaking news and K-12 education. Contact her at etalley 'at' stanforddaily.com.

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