Campus & Community

Frese Foundation creates $3 million FAS dean’s fund:

4 min read

Will give Kirby flexibility to respond to needs in key areas

The Frese Foundation, a generous supporter of Harvard astronomy, financial aid, and athletics, is concluding an extensive series of gifts to the University by establishing a $3 million dean’s fund. The Arnold D. Frese Dean’s Discretionary Fund will provide Dean William C. Kirby with the flexibility to respond to needs in key areas of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) such as financial aid, faculty support, and the sciences.

The Frese Foundation was established in honor of shipping magnate Arnold D. Frese. It has disbursed more than $8 million to Harvard in a series of grants made over more than two decades, and is now being dissolved. The foundation was created in 1966 by Frese and since his death in 1979 has been directed by his widow, Ines C. Frese, and his friend James S. Smith ’49. As the foundation’s president, Smith has played a pivotal role in directing the foundation’s generous gifts to Harvard over the years.

“This gift is especially valuable because it will help us respond to unforeseen needs as we review the undergraduate curriculum and expand programs in science and global studies,” said Kirby. “I am very grateful to the Frese Foundation for everything it has done for Harvard, and for helping us achieve our vision for the 21st century.”

In making this latest grant, Smith said a key motivation for the Frese Foundation was creating a versatile fund that would be useful to the College even as educational needs change. “We wanted to create a memorial that would carry on longer than our foundation would,” he explained. “We felt it was important for the dean to have some flexibility, so that he can spend the funds depending on need and circumstances, rather than having them tied up in some way.”

Longtime supporters of Harvard, James S. Smith and his wife Laura have devoted many years to volunteering on University and FAS committees. A John Harvard Fellow, James Smith is a member of the Committee on University Resources and the Faculty of Arts and Sciences New York Major Gifts Steering Committee, and he has served as a member of the FAS Financial Aid Council. Laura Smith has served as a gift chair for the Harvard College Parents Fund and has been a member of the Visiting Committee to the College.

Mr. Smith developed a keen interest in astronomy in the 1980s, and later became a member of the Visiting Committee to Astronomy. After a conversation with Henry Rosovsky, who was then dean of the FAS, Smith became involved in a Harvard project to build twin 6.5-meter-aperture telescopes in Las Campanas, Chile, a spot in the Andes Mountain range where viewing conditions are nearly perfect. His leadership was crucial in the effort to raise funds for the telescopes’ construction. He spent almost three years raising money for the project.

“He’s a very loyal and hard-working alumnus who has worked for Harvard ever since he graduated,” said Robert G. Stone Jr. ’45, former Senior Fellow of the Harvard Corporation. “When he became involved with the Frese Foundation, he recognized that Harvard’s work matched the foundation’s mission, and he went out of his way to connect them.”

In addition to serving as chair of the Class of 1949, Smith was the reunion gift chair for his 50th reunion, and is a former member of the Harvard College Fund Council. In 1974, he established the Martha Stuart Smith Scholarship in memory of his daughter, who died at the age of 23. The scholarship fund supported seven students this year.

The foundation has also honored Frese’s memory by making grants to several other major institutions, including the Metropolitan Opera in New York, Greenwich Hospital, the Hoover Institution, and the National Gallery of Art.