The Biden administration is set to include at least 63 Harvard-connected individuals as nominees or appointees, including 10 Cabinet-level officials.
Equipped with Harvard experience in a wide variety of ways — as alumni from the College, Law School, and Kennedy School, as Crimson editors, as professors or guest lecturers, or as fellows at the Institute of Politics — they will be tasked with helping Biden resolve a number of ongoing crises, most prominently the Covid-19 pandemic. Many will also be breaking new ground in their roles; if confirmed, the group will include the first openly gay Cabinet member, the first Black chair of the Council of Economic Advisors, and the first transgender official confirmed by the U.S. Senate.
Some of these individuals began their careers in politics under the Obama administration — notable for its extensive use of the President’s Harvard network — while others were brought on during the campaign itself, with members like incoming Chief of Staff Ronald A. Klain hiring former students onto the campaign.
“It’s no surprise that the kind of people who teach and attend Harvard would be involved in the Biden campaign: they are active, public-minded, and determined to change things for the better,” Klain wrote in an Oct. 28 email to The Crimson.
As of Jan. 19, here is a list of the Biden administration selections with Harvard ties:
Learn more about those tapped for Senate-confirmed positions and several senior administration officials:
Yohannes Abraham, who currently serves as the Executive Director of the Biden-Harris Transition Team, will be the Chief of Staff and Executive Secretary for the National Security Council. Abraham is currently an Adjunct Lecturer in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School, where he was previously a Resident Fellow at the Institute of Politics. In the past, he served as Deputy Assistant to the President, Senior Advisor to the National Economic Council, and Senior Advisor at the Obama Foundation. As a Baker Scholar at Harvard Business School, Abraham received his M.B.A. with high distinction in 2019.
Under Biden, Antony J. Blinken ’84 will become the Secretary of State, pending Senate approval. He previously served as the Deputy Secretary of State and the Principal Deputy National Security Advisor during the Obama administration. Blinken concentrated in Social Studies and wrote for The Crimson before graduating magna cum laude from the College in 1984.
If the Senate confirms his nomination to be Secretary of Transportation, Peter P.M. “Pete” Buttigieg ’04 will become the first-ever openly gay Cabinet member. The former mayor of South Bend, Ind. gained national prominence as a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate. Before he held political office, Buttigieg completed a tour in Afghanistan as a naval intelligence officer. Living in Leverett House at the College, Buttigieg studied History and Literature, wrote a column for The Crimson, and was elected student president of the Institute of Politics. He graduated magna cum laude and was named a Rhodes Scholar.
Biden has tapped Jonathan G. Cedarbaum ’83 as Deputy Counsel to the President and legal advisor to the National Security Council. Cedarbaum previously worked as a partner at the law firm WilmerHale and as acting Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel under Obama. A Currier House resident, he concentrated in Philosophy and wrote for The Crimson before graduating magna cum laude from the College in 1983.
Rohit Chopra ’04 is Biden’s nominee to lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, with Senate consent. Having served in both the Trump and Obama administrations, he is currently a commissioner of the Federal Trade Commission, and served as the CFPB’s Assistant Director under Obama. While at the Bureau, he led reform efforts around student loans as its first student loan ombudsman. A 2004 College graduate with a concentration in Government, Chopra lived in Adams House and served as president of the Undergraduate Council in 2003.
Kristen Clarke ’97 has been named as the Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division under Biden, pending Senate approval. She is currently president and executive director of the National Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. Clarke previously served in the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice and headed the Civil Rights Bureau for the New York State Attorney General’s Office. She attended Harvard College, concentrating in Government and serving as president of the Black Students Association before graduating cum laude in 1997.
Jonathan J. Finer ’98 will be the Principal Deputy National Security Advisor under Jacob J. Sullivan. He previously served as Middle East Advisor and Foreign Policy Speechwriter to then-Vice President Biden and Director of Policy Planning to Secretary of State John Kerry under the Obama administration. A Winthrop House resident, Finer graduated magna cum laude from Harvard College in 1998 and was awarded the Rhodes Scholarship. During his time at the College, Finer was a sportswriter for The Crimson and later worked as a national and foreign correspondent for the Washington Post.
Merrick B. Garland ’74 is the nominee for Attorney General, and if confirmed by the Senate, would lead a Justice Department deeply embroiled in prosecuting the rioters who stormed the U.S. Capitol. Appointed to the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit by Bill Clinton in April 1997, Garland served as Chief Judge there from 2013 to 2020 and was nominated for the Supreme Court in 2016, only for Senate Republicans to refuse to hold a hearing on his nomination. A Social Studies concentrator living in Quincy House, Garland graduated summa cum laude from the College in 1974 and magna cum laude from Harvard Law School in 1977, writing news articles and theater reviews for The Crimson and editing the Harvard Law Review. He also worked as a freshman proctor and Quincy House tutor. He has since maintained close ties with the University, lecturing at the Law School in the 1980’s and serving on the Board of Overseers from 2003 to 2010, including as its president from 2009-2010, advocating for improvements to residential housing during that time.
Upon Senate approval, former two-term Michigan governor Jennifer M. Granholm will serve as Secretary of Energy under Biden. Granholm was Attorney General of Michigan prior to being the first woman to lead the state. During her tenure from 2003 to 2011, she worked to save the automobile industry amid the Great Recession and spearheaded efforts to grow the state’s clean energy sector. In 1987, she received her J.D. from Harvard Law School, where she was editor-in-chief of the Civil Rights–Civil Liberties Law Review.
Jessica R. Hertz ’03 is the incoming White House Staff Secretary, heading an office that controls all documents going in and out of the Oval Office. She currently serves as the general counsel for the Biden-Harris transition and was principal deputy counsel to Biden during the Obama presidency. As a Harvard undergraduate, Hertz lived in Leverett House, concentrated in History of Art and Architecture, and co-captained the women’s lightweight crew team.
David A. Kessler will be the Chief Science Officer of the White House Covid-19 Response Team. Currently, he serves as the co-chair of the Covid-19 Task Force in the Biden transition and is a professor of pediatrics and epidemiology and biostatistics at University of California, San Francisco. From 1990 to 1997, Kessler was the Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, where he led the development and approval of AIDS drugs, and later became dean of Yale University’s School of Medicine. He graduated from Harvard Medical School in 1977.
As the next White House Chief of Staff — a position which does not require Senate confirmation — Ronald A. Klain will control access to the President and be responsible for his schedule and staffing. A longtime Biden associate, having advised his 1988 and 2008 Presidential campaigns, Klain served as the “Ebola czar” to President Barack H. Obama and as chief of staff to two vice presidents, Biden and Al A. Gore ’69. He graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law School in 1987, serving as a research assistant to renowned law professor Laurence H. Tribe ’62 and editor of the Harvard Law Review, as well as earning the highly-coveted Sears Prize for highest grade average in 1985. A former Law School lecturer, Klain wrote a 2015 op-ed for The Crimson on the lessons of defeat.
Upon Senate approval, Eric S. Lander will serve as director of Office of Science and Technology Policy and Presidential Science Advisor, a new Cabinet-level position. A career scientist, Lander was one of the principal architects of the Human Genome Project and has made foundational contributions to genomics. Lander is currently a Professor of Systems Biology at Harvard Medical School and president and founding director of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. He plans to step down from his leadership position at the Broad Institute and take a leave of absence to join the Biden administration, according to the Harvard Gazette, a University-run publication.
Rachel L. Levine ’79 will serve as Assistant Secretary for Health, pending Senate approval. She currently leads Pennsylvania’s Covid-19 response as the state’s Secretary of Health and is also a Professor of Pediatrics and Psychiatry at the Penn State College of Medicine. An advocate for BGLTQ healthcare rights, Levine would become the first transgender federal official confirmed by the Senate. She graduated magna cum laude from the College in 1979, living in Mather House and concentrating in biology.
Biden has named Janet G. McCabe ’80 as Deputy Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, pending Senate confirmation. McCabe served in the EPA under Obama, working in the Office of Air and Radiation and helping to develop the Clean Power Plan. McCabe graduated magna cum laude from the College in 1980, concentrating in Classics and living in what is now Cabot House, before receiving her J.D. from Harvard Law School in 1983.
Gina McCarthy will coordinate the White House’s domestic climate policy as the Biden administration’s National Climate Advisor — a new position Biden created as he intends to pursue bold, swift climate action during his presidency. McCarthy was the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency during the Obama administration and currently helms the Natural Resources Defense Council. At Harvard, McCarthy was a professor of the practice at the School of Public Health and chair of the board of directors of the school’s Center for Climate, Health, and the Global Environment.
Jason S. Miller has been nominated by the Biden administration as the Deputy Director for Management for the Office of Management and Budget, pending Senate confirmation. Under Obama, Miller served as Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy Director of the National Economic Council, where he led a number of initiatives on job creation. Miller attended the Kennedy School, where he graduated with a Master’s in Public Administration in 2006.
Lisa O. Monaco ’90 is the Biden administration’s nominee for Deputy Attorney General. During the Obama administration, Monaco served as the President’s Homeland Security Advisor, the chief advisor to the president on counterterrorism. Though she will only assume her new post upon confirmation by the U.S. Senate, Biden requested Monaco serve as temporary homeland security advisor to coordinate security efforts for the inauguration on Jan. 20. At the College, Monaco concentrated in History and Literature and lived in what is now Pforzheimer House. She returned to Cambridge after her tenure in the Obama administration as a senior fellow with the Belfer Center’s Homeland Security Project at the Kennedy School.
If he is again confirmed by the Senate, Vivek H. Murthy ’98 will serve as the U.S. Surgeon General under at least two presidents. As Biden’s surgeon general, Murthy will help lead the nation’s fight against the coronavirus crisis, which has entered its most dire stage yet. Murthy has experience coordinating the government’s response to viruses. During the Obama administration, he oversaw the nation’s containment of the Ebola and Zika outbreaks. At the College, Murthy studied Biochemical Sciences and lived in Quincy House. Since graduating magna cum laude in 1998, he has returned to Harvard to speak about various health care challenges facing the country.
Samantha J. Power is the nominee for Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development, and if confirmed by the Senate, would lead the agency’s efforts to promote democracy, combat poverty, and provide humanitarian aid around the world. She served as the U.S. Ambassador to the UN during the Obama administration. She helped to rally support to fight the Ebola epidemic and voted to ratify the Paris Climate Accord during her tenure. Power graduated cum laude from Harvard Law School in 1999, returning as a joint professor at the Law School and the Kennedy School in 2017. A Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, Power was the founding executive director of the Kennedy School’s Carr Center for Human Rights Policy.
Rhode Island Governor Gina M. Raimondo ’93 has been named as the Biden administration’s Secretary of Commerce, pending Senate confirmation. Prior to her role as governor, Raimondo co-founded the first venture capital firm in Rhode Island, Point Judith Capital, and was the state’s General Treasurer for four years. Before graduating magna cum laude from the College in 1993 with a concentration in Economics, she lived in Quincy House and was part of the Crimson’s Business board as well as the Radcliffe Rugby Club.
Dana A. Remus ’97 has been named White House Counsel after serving as the top lawyer for the Biden-Harris presidential campaign and as the White House ethics lawyer during the Obama administration. At the College, Remus was captain of the women’s heavyweight crew team and received national and league distinctions. She lived in Leverett House, concentrated in East Asian Studies, and graduated summa cum laude.
Julissa Reynoso Pantaleón ’97 has been appointed Chief of Staff to First Lady Jill Biden. Prior to her appointment, Reynoso was a partner at a law firm in New York. During the Obama administration, she served as U.S. Ambassador to Uruguay from 2012 to 2014 and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere. Before graduating magna cum laude from the College in 1997 with a concentration in Government, Reynoso lived in Adams House and led Fuerza Quisqueyana, today called Fuerza Latina.
Susan E. Rice has been appointed as the Biden Administration's Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, which does not require Senate approval. She previously served as National Security Advisor in the Obama Administration from 2013 to 2017 and U.S. Ambassador to the UN from 2009 to 2013. Rice is a non-resident senior fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.
U.S. Representative Cedric L. Richmond (D-La.) will join the new administration as the director of the White House Office of Public Engagement and as a senior advisor to the president. Richmond, who chaired the Congressional Black Caucus during the 115th Congress, is a graduate of the Harvard Kennedy School’s Executive Education Program.
Cecilia E. Rouse ’86 is the nominee for Chair of the Council of Economic Advisors, the President’s panel on economic policy, which is responsible for issuing recommendations on the basis of empirical research. If confirmed by the Senate, Rouse would be the first African American chair in the Council’s history. Since 2012, she has served as dean of the Princeton School of Public Affairs, with a research focus on labor economics, and was a member of the Council during the Obama administration. Rouse graduated magna cum laude from Harvard College in 1986 with a concentration in Economics, and went on to earn a Ph.D. in Economics from the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences in 1992.
Catherine M. Russell, former chief of staff for then-Second Lady Jill T. Biden, has been tapped to direct the White House Office of Presidential Personnel, which vets administration appointees. In the Obama administration, she served as United States Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women's Issues. Russell was a spring 2019 resident fellow at the Institute of Politics and Vice Chair of the Biden-Harris Campaign.
Symone D. Sanders will be the senior advisor and chief spokesperson for Vice President Kamala D. Harris, neither position requiring Senate confirmation. She served as the youngest presidential press secretary in history to then-presidential candidate Bernie Sanders in 2016 at age 25, before joining CNN as a political commentator. Her past advocacy work includes chairing the Coalition of Juvenile Justice Emerging Leaders Committee and serving on the Federal Advisory Committee on Juvenile Justice, crucial for a Biden administration that has made criminal justice reform a priority. Sanders was a Harvard Institute of Politics Fellow in spring 2018.
Upon Senate approval, Wendy R. Sherman, currently the Director of the Center for Public Leadership at the Harvard Kennedy School and Professor of the Practice of Public Leadership, will become Deputy Secretary of State. She is also presently a senior fellow at the Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. In the past, Sherman served as Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs and was the lead negotiator of the Iranian nuclear deal in 2015. She would be the first woman to serve as Deputy Secretary of State.
Elizabeth D. Sherwood-Randall ’81 has been appointed Homeland Security Advisor and Deputy National Security Advisor. From 2014 to 2017, she served as Deputy Secretary at the U.S. Department of Energy, and during the Obama administration, she was the White House Coordinator for Defense Policy, Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction, and Arms Control. Sherwood-Randall is a non-resident senior fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs and graduated magna cum laude from the College in 1981 with a concentration in Social Studies.
Katherine C. Tai is the nominee for United States Trade Representative, and if confirmed, would be the first Asian American and woman of color to serve in the position. Tai has served as Chief Trade Counsel for the U.S. House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee since 2017, handling negotiations in Congress on the United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement, and previously served as chief counsel for China trade enforcement, which will inform her work as the United States’ top trade negotiator in the wake of Trump’s “trade war” with China. Tai graduated from Harvard Law School in 2001.
Annie Tomasini, who worked as the Biden campaign’s traveling chief of staff, will become Director of Oval Office Operations. She served as Biden’s Deputy Press Secretary when he was Vice President, and Press Secretary when he was a senator and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. From 2010 to 2019, Tomasini worked for Harvard Public Affairs and Communications, most recently as Senior Director of State, Local, and Community Relations and Strategic Outreach, which included handling communications around the University’s initiatives in Allston.
Polly E. Trottenberg has been nominated as Deputy Secretary of Transportation, pending Senate confirmation. Highly experienced in the field, she served as Assistant Secretary for Transportation Policy and Under Secretary for Policy in the Department of Transportation during the Obama administration. Since 2014, Trottenberg has been New York City’s Transportation Commissioner. She graduated from the Kennedy School with a Master’s in Public Policy in 1992.
Rochelle P. Walensky has been named as the Biden administration’s Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which does not require Senate approval. Walensky currently serves as a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and Chief of the Infectious Disease division at Massachusetts General Hospital, conducting research on the frontline of the Covid-19 pandemic. She received her Master’s in Public Health from Harvard’s School of Public Health in 2001.
In the 1970’s, Janet L. Yellen taught Harvard students economics. In 2021, she will serve as Secretary of the Treasury, upon confirmation by the Senate. Yellen has served in the past two Democratic presidents’ administrations. She was the chair of the Federal Reserve during the Obama administration and chaired then-President Bill Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisors from 1977-1999.
Ali A. Zaidi ’08 will be the Deputy National Climate Advisor under Gina McCarthy, with both set to take an active role in shaping the newly formed White House Office of Domestic Climate Policy. Zaidi currently serves as New York’s Deputy Secretary for Energy and Environment, and, during the Obama administration, helped to draft and implement the Climate Action Plan and negotiate the Paris Climate Accords. Zaidi graduated from Harvard College in 2008, concentrating in Government and serving on the Undergraduate Council — at one point running for its presidency — and as president of the Harvard Islamic Society.
—Staff writer Tracy Jiang can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @_tracyjiang_.
—Staff writer Brandon L. Kingdollar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @newskingdollar.
—Staff writer Alex M. Koller can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @alexmkoller.
—Staff writer Hannah J. Martinez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @martinezhannahj.
—Staff writer Leah J. Teichholtz can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @LeahTeichholtz.