Campus & Community

Sosland gift invigorates drive for fellowships and professorships

4 min read

A recently announced gift of more than $5.8 million from the families of Morton I. Sosland ’46 and Neil N. Sosland ’52 of Kansas City will provide funding for two of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences’ highest priorities – professorships and graduate fellowships. The gift will also add to the Sosland family’s earlier support for Harvard’s Expository Writing Program.

The centerpiece of the Soslands’ latest gift is $3.5 million to establish The Sosland Family Professorship, which will be awarded at the discretion of the Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) to the most outstanding scholar in the FAS who is awaiting the honor of a named chair. Last year, Jeremy R. Knowles, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, announced that increasing the size of the faculty by 60 professors was his highest priority. According to the Sosland brothers, The Sosland Family Professorship has been established in response to Knowles’ goal of transforming the faculty.

“I am enormously grateful to Morton and Neil for having established The Sosland Family Professorship,” said Knowles. “When I observed last year that our primary goal must be to increase the size of the faculty, I hoped that we could count on the generosity of our alumni and friends to make this possible. The Soslands’ gift is a timely step toward the fulfillment of this hope, and their generosity will allow us to make an appointment in the discipline where the need and opportunity are greatest.”

A second major FAS priority addressed by the Soslands’ gift involves increasing the number of endowed graduate fellowships. More than $1.8 million of the gift will be used to create seven fellowships, making this one of the most generous and far-reaching gifts in the history of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.

“Each year, Harvard must compete with a number of other premier institutions for the most outstanding graduate applicants,” explained Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Peter T. Ellison. “To attract the very best of these, Harvard must be able to offer them not only the strongest academic programs in the country but also competitive levels of financial assistance. Without the generosity of people like Morton and Neil, this simply wouldn’t be possible.”

The remaining $500,000 of the Soslands’ gift will be used to establish a Sosland Director’s Fund in the undergraduate writing program. Income from the fund will support new initiatives geared to improving writing education at Harvard.

This is not the first time the Sosland family has targeted their philanthropy toward undergraduate writing. Early in The University Campaign, the Soslands gave $2 million to endow the directorship of the Expository Writing Program (now held by Nancy Sommers) and to establish a writing prize for freshmen. This was followed by a $3 million gift to support an assistant director of the Harvard Writing Project and to create an Innovation Fund for Expository Writing.

“With this new gift, the Sosland family has once again demonstrated its deep commitment to writing education at Harvard,” said Sommers. “No two people have a deeper appreciation of the critical role writing plays in our students’ lives – both while they are at Harvard and after they graduate – than Morton and Neil Sosland.”

Morton Sosland is president of the Sosland Family Foundation; Neil Sosland serves as vice president. Together, the brothers head their family business, the Sosland Publishing Co., whose global food publications include Milling & Baking News and World Grain.

“The two of us have a powerful commitment to improving teaching at Harvard,” the Sosland brothers said of their latest gift. “We saw this gift as an opportunity to do that across the entire Faculty of Arts and Sciences by endowing a professorship without tying it to a specific field, by providing graduate fellowships, and by strengthening our support for Expository Writing. We are aware that real needs exist even in the wake of the successful campaign, and we are delighted to have been able to play a role in addressing these needs.”