Harvard University announced Monday (May 15) that David Rockefeller, a member of the Harvard College Class of 1936 and longtime benefactor, has increased to $25 million his endowment gift to support Harvard’s Latin American studies center. The new gift of an additional $10 million to the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies will support the center’s research, teaching, and publishing activities, and will provide increased funding for undergraduate and graduate students who study Latin America and travel to the region.
Established with Rockefeller’s initial grant in 1994, the David Rockefeller Center has quickly grown to become one of the world’s pre-eminent institutions of its kind. The center is distinguished as the first truly interfaculty initiative for international studies at Harvard, drawing more than 70 leading scholars together from the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and eight of the University’s graduate and professional schools to serve on the center’s Policy Committee.
Rockefeller’s new gift will also allow the center to expand its study abroad and internship opportunities for Harvard College students, along with its lectures, seminars, conferences, film series, art exhibitions, and other academic and cultural events. Rockefeller said of his additional gift, “The center has more than fulfilled my expectations, and has played an important role in helping Harvard transform itself from a U.S. institution with an international reputation into a truly global university. Latin America is a critical part of the world, and understanding the changes occurring there is essential. I would like to ensure that the center will continue to be a leader in Latin American studies far into the future.”
President Lawrence H. Summers praised Rockefeller’s contributions to the University and the world, saying, “A decade ago, David Rockefeller had a vision to create a center where scholars could work together, across all disciplines, to study and better understand Latin America. He worked closely with my predecessor, Neil Rudenstine, to launch the center. Today, thanks to David’s generous support and ongoing involvement, the David Rockefeller Center has become what many consider to be the foremost Latin American studies center in the world. More than 1,200 Harvard students have received grants from the center to conduct research or take up internships and service opportunities in Latin America, supporting our goal of providing them with an international experience as part of their education. I am enormously grateful to David for all he has done for Harvard, and I have been honored to work with him.”
Rockefeller’s desire to leverage his giving has been rewarded at the center many times over. For example, his initial gifts to the center, which provided endowments for three chairs in Latin American Studies, have been emulated by other donors, and Harvard now benefits from seven new endowed professorships dedicated to the study of Latin America. In addition, eight endowed fellowships for visiting researchers now enrich the Harvard community each year.
The David Rockefeller Center’s research grants to faculty have supported work on ways to reduce inequalities in access to good schools, health care, and affordable housing; reduce air pollution and protect the environment; strengthen democratic institutions; and improve U.S.-Latin American relations. The center has published a dozen books on such topics as the effectiveness of free trade agreements, the Cuban economy, the growth of private philanthropy, and the role of social enterprise throughout the region. The center also publishes books on economic development issues jointly with the Inter-American Development Bank.
The center has been led by Director John H. Coatsworth, Monroe Gutman Professor of Latin American Affairs at Harvard University, since its inception. The center has garnered recognition for its accomplishments in numerous arenas. Coatsworth, who is stepping down this month, noted that David Rockefeller had dedicated himself to the center’s success beyond providing financial resources, traveling to Latin America and attending meetings of the Advisory Committee that he helped to form. “Without David Rockefeller’s vision, generosity, and commitment, this extraordinary experiment in interdisciplinary study of a key region and increasingly influential culture would not exist. Today’s gift ensures that the center bearing his name will be able to enhance its already successful programs, expanding our role of stimulating teaching, research, and analysis of Latin America. This is good for the center, good for Harvard, and good for the world. We thank him for all that he has done.”
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Soon after its founding, the David Rockefeller Center developed a reputation for innovation at the University. For example, the center established the first University-wide office abroad when it opened its Regional Office in Santiago, Chile, in 2001. It will open another office in São Paulo, Brazil, this summer, thanks to support from Harvard alumnus Jorge Paulo Lemann. The latter enterprise reflects an additional area of expansion for the center, an increased focus on Portuguese-speaking regions. Also on the agenda are creating new opportunities for Harvard students to study and work in the region; supporting research initiatives that cross disciplines and lead to breakthrough projects in fields such as business and government; further developing the center’s outstanding book series and its magazine; and working with Latin American institutions on collaborative research projects and student programs.
David Rockefeller is the former chairman, president, chairman of the Executive Committee, and CEO of Chase Manhattan Bank, and former chairman of the board of the Rockefeller Group. He is known as an innovative philanthropist with a wide range of interests, including Latin America, modern art, and the sciences. He has also been a generous donor to many of Harvard’s Faculties and Schools. A past member of the Executive Committee of the Committee on University Resources (COUR), he was also honorary chair of The University Campaign, which raised a record $2.6 billion for Harvard from 1994 until 1999. In addition to Harvard, he has been a generous donor to the Museum of Modern Art, Rockefeller University, and numerous other institutions and causes. An active Harvard alumnus for decades, he served on the Board of Overseers from 1954 to 1968, and was president of the Board from 1966 to 1968. In recognition of his many forms of service to the University, he received an honorary degree in 1969. Rockefeller will celebrate his 70th college reunion this June during Harvard’s Commencement week.