Campus & Community

John Hanselman to leave Harvard

3 min read

Recording Secretary John Hanselman, who has shepherded alumni gifts to the University for nearly a quarter of a century, is leaving Harvard. Hanselman steps down today to take a new position as executive director of Cambridge in America, the U.S. branch of Cambridge University’s alumni and development organization. He will direct the American fundraising for the university as it approaches its 800th anniversary.

Hanselman’s departure marks the end of a Harvard career that lasted 24 years to the day. He came to Harvard as a major gifts officer on March 1, 1978, when Harvard was gearing up for a capital campaign seeking to raise $250 million, a goal that was later increased to $350 million. He went on to become recording secretary in 1985, heading the department that handles the acceptance and review of all gifts to the University, and ensures that all gifts meet University standards and policies.

“John’s institutional knowledge will be virtually impossible to replace,” said William H. Boardman Jr., associate vice president for capital giving. “He has been especially effective because he understands the fundraising side of the business, having been an FAS (Faculty of Arts and Sciences) major gifts officer. He has worked closely with countless alumni to help them give to the University.”

Thomas M. Reardon, vice president of alumni affairs and development, remarked, “John’s innovation and expertise have been absolutely critical to the growth of our program as it evolved over the years. We’re sorry to lose such a valuable veteran, but we wish him the best of success with Cambridge.”

Hanselman spent much of his time making the rounds with development staff and deans of each School to discuss terms of alumni gifts, interpreting standards and policies to determine how gifts can and should be used. That proved to be a bit of a challenge when, in the mid-’80s, a retiring orthodontist presented him with a highly unusual gift: a collection of 95 human skulls. Unable to easily liquidate them into cash, Hanselman ultimately found a home for the skulls at the School of Dental Medicine.

A search is under way for Hanselman’s successor. In the interim, Associate Recording Secretary Susan Serrell will handle Hanselman’s responsibilities. Information about the Office of the Recording Secretary can be found at

Hanselman will divide his time between London and New York, and plans to settle in New Jersey with his wife, Joyce. The Hanselmans have two children, Matthew and Elizabeth ’99.