Eagle Rock -- Occidental College has tapped Harry J. Elam, Jr., a senior administrator at Stanford University and a professional theater director, to serve as its 16th president, the liberal arts college announced today.
Elam will begin his tenure at Occidental on July 1 and will succeed Jonathan Veitch, who announced in January 2019 that he will step down on June 30 after an 11-year presidency.
In addition to his interest and academic work in the theater arts, Elam, who will be Occidental’s second African-American president, has also spearheaded initiatives to increase diversity and inclusion at Stanford. He created an Institute for Diversity in the Arts and a program to increase the number of students of color pursuing graduate degrees in STEM fields.
“The College’s mission, founded on a commitment to excellence, equity, community and service resonates deeply with me, as do its academic strengths across disciplines, its vibrant ties to Los Angeles, a faculty equally committed to teaching and research, and talented students from all backgrounds determined to have an impact on our world,” Elam said in a statement.
The 63-year-old Elam will arrive at Occidental as the college has raised $152 million to strengthen its endowment and has adopted changes in response to campus protests over sexual assault and racial inequality in recent years.
Elam, a Harvard graduate who joined Stanford as a teacher 1990, has authored and co-edited seven books, including the award-winning The Past as Present in the Drama of August Wilson.
In addition to his scholarly work, Elam has directed professionally for more than 25 years, including, several of August Wilson’s plays, including Radio Golf, Joe Turner's Come and Gone, Two Trains Running, and Fences.
His wife, Michele Elam, is William Robertson Coe Professor in the Humanities at Stanford and an associate director of the Institute for Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence.
John Lang, a search committee member and president of the Occidental Faculty Council president, described the college’s new president as a “champion of all that Oxy stands for” and one “who has proven he can help people coalesce around a shared purpose.”