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The University announced today that Paul J. Finnegan ’75, M.B.A. ’82, a current member of the Board of Overseers, has been elected a member of the Harvard Corporation, the senior governing board, effective July 1. In accordance with Harvard’s charter, he was elected by the Corporation, with the Overseers’ consent. With his election, the President and Fellows of Harvard College, as the Corporation is formally known, will expand to 11 members. Under the sweeping changes in governance announced in December 2010 by President Drew Faust and Senior Fellow Robert D. Reischauer ’63, the Corporation is gradually expanding from seven members to 13—growth that enables the board, among other changes, to:

  • gain in expertise;
  • establish permanent committees to better address its principal fiduciary responsibilities (finance; facilities and capital planning; governance; and, jointly with the Overseers, a committee on alumni affairs and development); and
  • as a whole, adopt a more strategic focus in matters of Harvard governance generally.

Following the Commencement-week meetings of the Corporation and Overseers in May 2011, an important step in effecting these reforms was taken when three new Corporation members were appointed (Lawrence S. Bacow, M.P.P.-J.D. ’76, Ph.D. ’78; Susan L. Graham ’64; and Joseph J. O’Donnell ’67, M.B.A. ’71), bringing the membership to 10.

Harvard Connections and Interests

Finnegan’s appointment strengthens the ties between the Corporation and the Overseers, and brings other dimensions to the senior governing board. As a past president of the Harvard Alumni Association (2006-2007)—during the challenging transition from the presidency of Lawrence H. Summers through the interim return to Massachusetts Hall of Derek Bok and then the appointment of Faust—he deepens connections to the alumni body as a whole and alumni affairs generally (as does O’Donnell). He has been actively engaged in University financial affairs:

  • chairing the Overseers’ committee on finance, administration, and management;
  • serving as one of three alumni members on the University’s financial-management committee from 2009-2011 (and there helping coordinate investments, budgets, and capital spending in a more integrated way, in the wake of the 2008-2009 financial crisis and changes in Harvard policies, planning, and procedures); and
  • since last fall, serving as one of four non-Corporation members on the Corporation’s new committee on finance.

At a time when the Corporation and administration are focusing on a forthcoming, large University capital campaign, Finnegan has been one of the planning committee co-chairs. He comes to that role, and likely leadership in the fundraising effort, from longtime membership on the Committee on University Resources (a group of leading Harvard donors), service as chair of the Harvard Business School Fund, and service as reunion co-chair for his College class. He has been academically involved with the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, the business school, and the Harvard School of Public Health through decanal and leadership councils and advisory boards.

Finnegan is co-CEO of Madison Dearborn Partners, a Chicago-based private-equity firm that he helped found in 1992, following a decade at First Chicago Venture Capital.

As president of the alumni association, Finnegan had a substantive, education-focused agenda, emphasizing undergraduate education and advising, interfaculty collaboration, Harvard’s international reach, financial aid, and research. He brought a multigenerational perspective to some of those interests: his father, J. Paul Finnegan (now deceased), graduated in the class of 1946. Paul and Mary Finnegan’s middle child, Paul M., a member of the College class of 2011, graduated last March. As for those research interests, professor of molecular and cellular biology Joshua R. Sanes holds the endowed Paul J. Finnegan Family Directorship of the Harvard Center for Brain Science. (An avid undergraduate Nordic skier, he has also endowed the Harvard ski team’s coaching position.)

Beyond his extensive Harvard commitments, Finnegan is deeply involved in education in Illinois, where he chairs the Chicago advisory board of Teach for America; he is also on that organization’s national board of trustees.

Perspectives on the Election

In the University news release, Reischauer, who chaired the search committee, said:

Paul Finnegan is one of Harvard’s most devoted, energetic, and accomplished alumni leaders, someone of excellent judgment, wide interests, and a real passion for education. He will bring us not only important financial and organizational expertise and a deep knowledge of the University and its governance, but also a broad set of relationships across the community and a wonderful way of motivating people to stay engaged with Harvard.

Faust said:

I often marvel at how Paul Finnegan seems to be everywhere. It’s remarkable how much he does for Harvard, and how he does it with such enthusiasm, such a thoughtful and probing manner, and such concern for how we can always do better. He radiates a constant dedication to the University, always with an eye on how we can build on existing strengths while at the same time building Harvard’s capacity for change. It’s been great to work with Paul during his time as an Overseer, and I greatly look forward to his service on the Corporation.

And Finnegan himself said:

Harvard means a great deal to me, and I’m grateful for this opportunity to help guide its future. I’m especially pleased to be able to take on this new role at a time when the Corporation itself is in the midst of important changes and when the University is pursuing new approaches, both educationally and organizationally, on so many different fronts. This seems to me a particularly interesting moment of transition and possibility for Harvard, and it will be a privilege to continue working with President Faust and others to make the most of it.

Two additional Corporation members remain to be elected, likely during the next year or two. Nominations or suggestions may be forwarded to corporationsearch@harvard.edu.