Giving a gift to Harvard seems a simple thing. A donor writes a check or transfers some stock, and that’s the end of it.
But that is just the beginning for the Recording Secretary’s Office (RSO), now led by Brook Newcomb M.B.A. ’80.
The RSO is responsible not only for recording and acknowledging all gifts, grants, and bequests to Harvard, but also for determining the legal donor and making sure that funds are used in the way the donor intended. Often, RSO staff is called upon to handle gifts of tangible property that have to be appraised and are then usually sold – although a gift of skulls from an orthodontist in the 1980s proved a challenge before a home for them was found at the School of Dental Medicine. Throughout the process, the RSO works closely with the Office of Financial Services, Harvard Management Company, Planned Giving, and others.
Leading this office requires many different skills: an attention to detail, an ability to communicate well both with donors and other areas within Harvard, quantitative expertise, and an understanding of all aspects of a business processing operation.
‘We have a number of very knowledgeable people in the RSO, and we need to find ways to share their expertise.’
Newcomb took up the reins of the RSO in September, having spent the prior five years advising clients on issues ranging from overall business focus to organizational effectiveness to online marketing strategy (he spent two years with Forrester Research in Cambridge). A native of Andover, Newcomb attended Williams College and joined the First National Bank of Boston after his graduation. In 1980, he received an M.B.A from the Business School and continued his career in banking and diversified financial services in firms in the New York City and Philadelphia areas. During this time, Newcomb managed several product businesses, including two national credit card companies. This experience gave him valuable insight into all aspects of running a business, from human resources to operations to strategic planning. He then moved on to Forrester Research and management consulting.
Newcomb believes his strong background in running businesses and working as a management consultant will greatly aid his work with the RSO. “I see this background playing an important part in my role as Recording Secretary, since I bring experience in organizational design, operational effectiveness, and business discipline to the office,” says Newcomb. “My client relations experience will help me in working with donors and other parts of Harvard.”
Newcomb hopes to improve the information and work flows between the RSO and other parts of Harvard. “We have a number of very knowledgeable people in the RSO, and we need to find ways to share their expertise. I also believe that there are operational efficiencies we can gain by institutionalizing best-in-class procedures.”
Newcomb lives in Sudbury with his wife and the youngest of their three children.