(Bloomberg) -- Yale University named Maurie McInnis, the head of Long Island’s Stony Brook University, as its new president at a time of tumult across US higher education over everything from student protests to faculty diversity and admissions. 

McInnis, a Yale-trained art historian, will start on July 1, the university said Wednesday. At Stony Brook, she landed a $500 million gift last year from Renaissance Technologies founder Jim Simons and served as the inaugural board chair of the New York Climate Exchange. More recently, she came under faculty criticism for calling in the police to deal with pro-Palestinian protests.

At Yale, she will replace Peter Salovey, who is retiring after more than a decade at the helm. 

“I am filling big shoes and am grateful to be stepping into the university at a time when the priorities are clear and the plan to achieve them is strong and bolstered by an excellent academic and administrative leadership team,” McInnis, 58, said in a statement. 

US colleges have been roiled by student protests since Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel and the Jewish state’s retaliatory assault in Gaza. Pro-Palestinian demonstrators staged encampments this spring at dozens of schools including Yale and Stony Brook. Earlier this month at Stony Brook, police arrested 22 students, two faculty members and five others following protests that McInnis said included harassment and intimidation of students.

In an interview, she spoke about the need to safeguard students, faculty and staff from disruptive and obstructive behaviors that go beyond what are reasonable time, place and manner restrictions.

“The open exchange of diverse perspectives is key to any university experience and educational excellence as well, because true freedom of expression demands that we acknowledge the rights of others to hold and express beliefs that are different from our own,” she said. “But at the same time, our community members’ safety and wellbeing are also critical.”

Joshua Bekenstein, senior trustee of the Yale board and chair of the presidential search committee, said almost 130 candidates were nominated for the role. 

The school sought “a great leader who had vision, who had great experience, who had the ability to connect with students and faculty and lead our institution from the standpoint of teaching and learning,” Bekenstein, a former co-chairman of Bain Capital, said in an interview. “Maurie meets all those characteristics.” 

She is the first woman to be permanently appointed to the position. Hanna Gray served as an acting president of Yale in the 1970s before leading the University of Chicago.

McInnis, a cultural historian of the 19th century American South and a Yale trustee since 2022, earned a doctorate from the New Haven, Connecticut-based university in 1996. She is the author of Slaves Waiting for Sale: Abolitionist Art and the American Slave Trade, and co-editor of Educated in Tyranny: Slavery at Thomas Jefferson’s University.

Her resume includes leadership positions at top public institutions. She previously served as provost at the University of Texas in Austin and vice provost at the University of Virginia, where she earned an undergraduate degree. 

Yale has been one of several selective universities seeking new leaders. The presidents of Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania resigned after their widely derided testimony about antisemitism on campus at a congressional hearing in December. 

Cornell’s president announced her retirement this month, to be replaced by the school’s provost on an interim basis for two years. 

(Updates with detail on Yale presidents in the 10th paragraph.)

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