A message from Dean Douglas Elmendorf 

To Harvard Kennedy School’s Faculty, Staff, and Students, 

I am sorry to report that Mark Gearan, the director of the Institute of Politics at HKS, will be leaving his position to return to Hobart and William Smith Colleges. 

Before coming to lead the IOP in 2018, Mark had served as president of Hobart and William Smith Colleges for 18 years. The current president of the Colleges, who took that role in 2019, just announced that she is stepping aside now. Mark has been asked to return as president, and he has accepted the position. Although we will miss Mark very much here, I understand and respect his decision to heed the call from the Colleges that he led for so long. 

Under Mark Gearan’s leadership during the past four years, the Institute of Politics has been both an integral part of Harvard Kennedy School and one of the largest student organizations for undergraduates at Harvard College. The IOP has hosted interesting and varied speakers in the Forum and elsewhere, placed hundreds of students in summer internships, played a key role in the Harvard Votes Challenge to strengthen democracy, convened new mayors and new Members of Congress, supported a large collection of student programs, and so much more. The IOP truly has been fulfilling its mission to inspire and mentor students to participate in politics and public service. I admire Mark’s dedication to helping Harvard students become the public leaders and public servants we need, and these students and all of us who have worked with Mark have benefited from his hard and skilled work. 

Indeed, Mark’s outstanding leadership of the IOP has continued his lifelong commitment to service. Before becoming president of Hobart and William Smith Colleges, he was director of the Peace Corps, the White House communications director, and the vice-presidential campaign manager for Al Gore in 1992. Mark currently is the vice chair for national and public service of the National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service. Moreover, Mark and his wife Mary were faculty deans of Winthrop House—where Mark had lived as a Harvard College student—for a year. I am very grateful to Mark for all he has done for the Harvard community and for the broader world. 

We will launch a search shortly for a new director of the Institute of Politics. To help identify and recruit the best possible person for this important role, we will solicit input from the undergraduate students of the IOP and from others who have experience with the IOP. I encourage anyone with suggestions for the next director or for the search process to send your ideas to Sarah Wald, my chief of staff, at iopdirectorsearch@hks.harvard.edu

In the meantime, I am very pleased to announce that Setti Warren, the executive director of the IOP, has agreed to serve as interim director. Setti has been a skilled and dedicated senior leader at HKS for the past four years. From 2010 to 2018 he was the mayor of Newton, Massachusetts, where he was the first African American to be popularly elected mayor in the state. He was previously a special assistant to President Bill Clinton and did a yearlong tour of duty in Iraq as a naval intelligence specialist, among other achievements. I am so appreciative of Setti’s outstanding service to Harvard and its students, and I look forward to working with him even more closely in his new role.

Please join me in offering our best wishes to Mark Gearan as he leaves the IOP.