Campus & Community

Rappaports permanently endow institute

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The Jerome Lyle Rappaport Charitable Foundation announced that the Rappaport family and foundation have awarded Harvard University $12.35 million to permanently endow Harvard’s Rappaport Institute for Greater Boston.

The Rappaport family and foundation have provided more than $2.75 million in grants to fund the institute since its founding in 2000. The endowment gift, presented in late June, will increase that support to more than $15 million.

David T. Ellwood, dean of the Kennedy School of Government, and Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino were among those who joined Jerome and Phyllis Rappaport and then-President Lawrence H. Summers at Boston City Hall to announce the endowment.

The income from the endowment will support the institute’s core operations, which include public-sector fellowship programs for graduate students, research grants for scholars to study pressing local issues, scholarships and training programs for local officials, events and briefings that bring together scholars and practitioners to discuss key issues, and a variety of efforts to ensure that scholars and practitioners have access to each other’s insights and findings. The institute and the University also plan to use funding from the endowment to leverage significant additional spending, particularly to develop and disseminate policy-relevant research about the region.

In announcing the grant, Phyllis Rappaport, chair of the Jerome Lyle Rappaport Charitable Foundation, explained that “the foundation seeks to build a community in which innovation, dialogue, and alliances flourish.

“The Rappaport Institute directly embodies this objective. In developing its programs, it has included innovative ways to link Greater Boston’s universities and the city, and to create opportunities for critical dialogue on tough issues. It has forced people to step outside of the box and has established powerful mechanisms for corrective and constructive feedback and advice.”

The gift continues a long history of involvement in both local government and Harvard by the foundation’s namesake, Jerome Lyle Rappaport, who has worked to connect scholars, students, and city leaders since he was a student at Harvard Law School in the late 1940s. Rappaport, who worked for former Boston Mayor John Hynes, helped found the New Boston Committee in the early 1950s, and went on to a successful career in law and real estate, said, “For a long time there was a need for a stronger connection between Harvard’s wonderful resources and challenges faced by the people, the city of Boston, the region, and state government. The Rappaport Institute has already proven to extend what for me has been a lifelong interest in the interrelationship between the academic and political worlds, and I’m pleased to know this relationship will continue for generations to come.”

In accepting the grant, Summers noted that “the institute is particularly important because — as Ed Glaeser [director of the institute] showed in research done for the Rappaport Institute on Boston’s long history of economic reinvention — Harvard and this region will succeed or fail together. By playing a central role in local policy-related efforts between Harvard’s faculty and their students, on the one hand, and local policymakers and civic leaders, on the other, the institute will help ensure that both Harvard and the region succeed.”

Ellwood, dean of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, where the University-wide institute is housed, added, “I am particularly pleased that the institute is evolving in ways that advance Harvard’s core goals of producing high-quality scholarship and encouraging our undergraduate and graduate students to enter public service. The institute, moreover, has already led the way, and will continue to play a central role in the University’s efforts to be a better citizen in its host communities and the region — a goal that is particularly important to me.”

This year, for example, the Institute produced seminal new research on regulation and high housing prices in Greater Boston and, subsequently, on the economic impacts of high housing prices. It also co-sponsored major public events in Boston to discuss the research. To encourage public service, the institute sponsors a summer public policy fellows program that each year funds and places a dozen graduate students drawn from many of the regions’ colleges and universities in paid public-sector internships. This summer’s fellows come from Harvard, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Tufts, Northeastern, and Suffolk University, and are working on policy issues related to affordable housing, general management, and economic development for such entities as the office of State Rep. Kevin Honan (D-Boston), Somerville’s SomerStat program, and Massport’s Office of Strategic Planning. Mayor Menino also lauded the Rappaports for endowing the institute and the University for making a long-term commitment to the city and the region. “The endowment of the Rappaport Institute will ensure that the city of Boston and Harvard continue to learn from one another.

“Whether it’s new research on critical policy issues or the opportunity for smart young people to work in state and local government, we all benefit from the exchange of ideas and experiences the Rappaport Institute can offer,” he said.

Four of the institute’s 2006 summer public policy fellows worked for city entities: the Emergency Shelter Commission, the Boston Public Health Commission, the Boston Redevelopment Authority, and the Boston Schools Department.

“The collaborative efforts of the University, the Rappaport Institute, the Rappaport family, and the Rappaport Charitable Foundation have produced a new and potentially powerful model for improved ‘town/gown’ relations in the 21st century,” concluded Edward Glaeser, a professor of economics at Harvard who has directed the institute since 2004.