Campus & Community

Alumni are encouraged to support priorities across the University

5 min read

Harvard has historically engaged alumni on a school-by-school basis. Those who graduate from one school have the opportunity to learn about its activities; get to know its faculty, academic leaders, and fellow alumni; and are encouraged to support its priorities. Alumni who graduated from the College, the Business School, and the Law School, in particular, have given generously to these schools over the years, and their support has been vital to the development of outstanding teaching and research programs at each school.

Increasingly, however, the strength and success of the University depends on connections among the schools. As President Lawrence H. Summers said in his installation speech, “Every tub may rest on its own bottom, but all draw on the reservoir of knowledge and tradition that Harvard represents. And the strength and reputation of each depend upon the strength of all. We will not sacrifice the flexibility and innovation that autonomy promotes but we will assure that Harvard, as one university, exceeds the sum of its parts.”

Toward this end, Summers and Deans William C. Kirby, Robert C. Clark, and Kim B. Clark have announced plans to encourage and recognize alumni who support a wider range of University activities.

Under the new guidelines, alumni of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS), Harvard Law School (HLS), and Harvard Business School (HBS) may receive class credit within their own schools for gifts of any amount to the University Graduate and Professional Student Aid Fund. Also, class credit will be granted for gifts of $250,000 or more to identified priorities at the schools of Design, Divinity, Education, Government, or Public Health, with a focus on professorships, financial aid, and collaborative academic activity. Class credit will also be granted for gifts of $250,000 or more to the University Academic Innovation Fund, which enables the president and the provost to support exciting new interdisciplinary research, teaching, and scholarship. Finally, gifts of any amount to the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Studies will receive class credit at the FAS, HBS, and HLS.

“I am especially grateful for the leadership of Deans Bill Kirby, Bob Clark, and Kim Clark,” said Summers. He emphasized that the revised recognition guidelines are not meant to reduce or divert funding from the areas to which our alumni have historically given, noting that such support remains indispensable to the University.

“I have always believed that the Faculty of Arts and Sciences has an important role to play in the life of the University as a whole,” said Kirby. “I support President Summers’ determination to provide the resources to bring the most talented graduate students in every field to Harvard and to bolster the University’s commitment to public service.”

Several factors combined to prompt this policy shift. Many of today’s most important and interesting intellectual challenges cut across Harvard’s traditional departmental and school boundaries. Joint degree programs, joint faculty appointments, and increased collaboration across school boundaries have accelerated during the past decade, and will continue to do so. Issues that demand an interdisciplinary perspective range from computation to Islamic studies, and from the dynamic between the brain and the mind to the implications of the human genome project.

It has long been clear that the Harvard schools whose graduates pursue less remunerative public service careers are unable to raise enough money from their own alumni to support fully their teaching and research activities. At the same time, the University’s leadership recognized that an ever-growing number of Harvard alumni have philanthropic interests that align with activities beyond the school from which they graduated. Summers has said that he wants to involve alumni who are passionate about addressing global health issues or who want to improve K-12 education in the United States, and encourage them to look to Harvard for leadership and solutions in these areas. Since many Harvard alumni focus a substantial portion of their philanthropy on issues of public service, they may wish to support students who are preparing to be teachers or public health professionals, or who will move on to work in government or the ministry.

“Harvard Law School has a tradition of encouraging its graduates to consider public service careers,” said Law School Dean Clark. “In our upcoming campaign, we hope to raise more than $62 million for the Law School’s financial aid and loan forgiveness programs. I absolutely stand with Larry on our responsibility to help all schools attract the very best students and to support those who wish to seek careers in public service. I will encourage our alumni to consider lending their support to the University’s efforts in addition to those of Harvard Law.”

In a Dec. 9 letter to alumni leaders, Committee on University Resources Chair Robert G. Stone Jr. ’45 wrote, “The new guidelines are designed to expand the menu of gift opportunities and, in the process, to advance exciting new interdisciplinary research, to support teaching and scholarship that are public service oriented, and to attract the very best graduate students, while ensuring that they will not be unduly burdened by student loan debts. Historically, these activities have not attracted the support they warrant. By highlighting them in the amended gift crediting policy, we hope to increase their visibility and importance to our alumni and friends.”

Business School Dean Clark said: “I know graduates of Harvard Business School readily understand the importance of venture capital. And that is really what this is all about: directing funds to support important areas of opportunity. If we can raise money for priorities across the University, some very exciting things will come of it.”