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President Joe Biden appointed Harvard Corporation Senior Fellow Penny S. Pritzker ’81 to serve as special representative for Ukraine’s economic recovery, the White House announced Thursday morning.
Biden said in a statement that Pritzker “will drive the United States’ efforts to help rebuild the Ukrainian economy” in a key new role that will include working with the Ukrainian government, allies, international financial institutions, and the private sector.
The appointment marks a return to government for Pritzker, 64, who served as secretary of commerce under President Barack Obama from 2013 to 2017. Shortly after leaving office in 2018, Pritzker was elected to the Harvard Corporation — the University’s highest governing body. Last year, she succeeded longtime Senior Fellow William F. Lee ’72 in the Corporation’s top post after Lee reached his 12-year term limit.
Harvard spokesperson Jonathan L. Swain confirmed in a statement that Pritzker’s appointment as special representative will not impact her role as senior fellow of the Harvard Corporation.
Pritzker did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
A member of one of the wealthiest families in America, Pritzker has a net worth of $3.3 billion, according to Forbes. Her family also traces its roots to Velyki Pritsky, a Ukrainian village located about a one-hour drive from Kyiv.
Along with seven other Harvard affiliates, Pritzker was sanctioned by the Russian government earlier this year, seemingly for supporting Ukraine amid the full-scale invasion launched by Russia in February 2022.
In her role, Pritzker will work in the State Department and report to U.S. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken ’84. The appointment comes as the United States and European countries have sought to increase economic support for Ukraine even as its war with Russia drags on.
Blinken, a former Crimson editor, said in a statement released by the State Department that Pritzker is “uniquely qualified for this task,” referencing her experience as both Secretary of Commerce and as a private sector business leader.
“Special Representative Pritzker’s appointment demonstrates our commitment to strengthen Ukraine’s European future,” Blinken said. “She will be key to our determination to see to it that Ukraine not only survives but thrives, standing on its own.”
Biden said that Pritzker’s appointment reaffirms the United States’ pledge to support Ukraine in the long term as the country prepares to enter its 20th month defending against Russia’s invasion.
“As we take this next step to help Ukraine forge a stronger future, we remain steadfastly committed to helping it defend its freedom today,” Biden added. “The brave people of Ukraine have inspired the world with their resilience and resolve, and as this announcement reaffirms, the United States remains committed to stand with them, for as long as it takes.”
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