Harvard announces new development dean

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Claudine Gay, Edgerley Family Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, and Vice President for Alumni Affairs and Development Brian K. Lee have announced that Armin Afsahi will become the new associate vice president and dean of development for the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS), effective Aug. 1. Reporting jointly to Gay and Lee, Afsahi will play a key leadership role in designing and executing a fundraising vision that advances FAS’s mission by supporting its diverse academic priorities.

An accomplished and respected advancement leader, Afsahi comes to Harvard having served most recently as the vice chancellor for advancement at the University of Denver. Previously, he held senior roles in advancement for the University of California, San Diego, and Georgetown University.

With nearly 30 years of experience in the private and public sector, Afsahi brings a wide range of expertise, including extensive experience in institutional advancement, strategic management, business development, marketing, technology, and operations. Over the course of his career, Afsahi has led comprehensive campaigns, worked successfully with large teams within complex, multidisciplinary research universities, and spearheaded paradigm-shifting models for engagement, philanthropy, and student achievement.

“From my first encounters with Armin, I was impressed by his belief in the power of discovery and innovation to effect positive change, his desire to work closely with faculty to advance an institution, and his ability to inspire and be inspired by an intellectual community,” said Gay, who is also the Wilbur A. Cowett Professor of Government and of African and African American Studies. “I am eager to have him as a partner as we work together with our Alumni Affairs and Development [AA&D] colleagues and our faculty in support of FAS’s mission.”

Afsahi joins Harvard and the FAS at a pivotal moment, following the conclusion of the Harvard Campaign and the Campaign for Arts and Sciences. He will oversee strategy and management for all FAS fundraising efforts with the goal of building on the momentum of those campaigns’ historic success.

Afsahi comes at a time of new leadership at Harvard, as well. Gay was appointed in August 2018 and Lee in November 2018. President Larry Bacow was inaugurated as Harvard’s 29th president in October 2018. Within this new landscape, Afsahi will be tasked with helping these leaders achieve their vision for Harvard’s future.

“I have observed Armin’s career with great interest over the years and regard him as an admired colleague and a leader in our field who earns the respect of all those around him,” said Lee. “I know that will be the case at Harvard as he works with the talented, high-performing team in AA&D and the outstanding faculty and staff in FAS.

“Given Armin’s impressive track record, his dedication to advancing higher education’s mission and values, and his inspiring leadership, he is ideally suited to joining Harvard at this time,” he added. “I look forward to working with him as he develops strong relationships with Harvard’s dedicated alumni volunteers, deepening and expanding that engagement through his own creative vision.”

Throughout his career, Afsahi has contributed significantly to comprehensive campaigns and has increased giving. As chief development officer and part of the senior leadership team at the University of Denver, Afsahi successfully oversaw every facet of development and alumni relations university-wide. In that role, he doubled the university’s annual philanthropy, substantially increased global engagement and giving each year, and launched the university’s first $1 billion campaign.

At the University of California, San Diego, in the role of associate vice chancellor and chief alumni officer, he contributed to achieving the highest level of alumni giving in the university’s history and was an integral member of the team that created the current $2 billion campaign.He was also instrumental in developing a strategic approach for Georgetown’s $2 billion campaign when he served there as assistant vice president for advancement.

“I consider it an honor and privilege to support the research and scholarship, and the teaching and learning that enables the Faculty of Arts and Sciences to have such an impact on Harvard and in the world, fostering progress and leading change,” said Afsahi. “To join Harvard’s community is truly a career-defining moment for me, and I am excited to work alongside a team of professionals who have achieved extraordinary outcomes and are committed to excellence.”

Afsahi has served on national and local boards, held volunteer leadership roles for both nonprofit and professional organizations, and contributes positively to the field of advancement through a variety of activities and speaking engagements. He holds a B.A. in communication from UC San Diego and an M.B.A. from the University of San Diego. Afsahi and his husband, Joe Eklund, enjoy the outdoors, travel, and sports, and look forward to joining the vibrant intellectual and social lifestyle in New England.