Campus & Community

KSG receives $1.25M gift from George Family Foundation

4 min read

The John F. Kennedy School of Government and Harvard Business School announced Oct. 17 a $1.25 million gift from the George Family Foundation that will provide 15 fellowships to students pursuing concurrent degrees at the Schools. The gift will also expand the Kennedy School’s leadership development programs.

The Minneapolis-based George Family Foundation was established in 1994 by Bill George, now professor of management practice at Harvard Business School, and his wife, Penny Pilgram George. The bulk of the foundation’s gift, in the amount of $1 million, will go to the Kennedy School, mainly to support 10 fellowships a year over the next five years. Students whom the gift supports at the Kennedy School are expected to commit to working in two of three designated areas – the public sector, private sector, and nonprofit sector – over the course of their careers.

To be eligible, students must demonstrate an interest in community and organizational transformation through public service, activism, and social entrepreneurship. Special emphasis in the program will be placed upon character development and ethical leadership. The first set of fellows will be chosen this spring, and their fellowships will begin next fall.

In addition, a portion of the gift to the Kennedy School will help to advance leadership development programs at the School’s Center for Public Leadership. The center will also be responsible for bringing together and coordinating cocurricular activities for the new George Family Foundation Fellows.

David Gergen, director of the Center for Public Leadership and professor of public service, said, “We are thrilled with this gift and the opportunity it presents to become more closely allied with Penny and Bill George. Bill is recognized around the world as one of the most successful and ethical corporate leaders of the past century, and he has become an invaluable teacher and mentor for students at Harvard. Penny is an exceptional leader who has worked tirelessly to help us better understand and embrace integrative medicine. Their support for advancing the leadership of the next generation is deeply gratifying.”

In announcing the gift, Bill George said, “Our communities are faced with more and greater challenges than ever before. We envision this program as one that will help future leaders learn the skills that will enable them to confront these challenges in innovative ways.”

The George Family Foundation has also pledged $250,000 to Harvard Business School. This gift will provide need-based financial aid for M.B.A. students pursuing a concurrent degree with the Kennedy School. It supplements the George International Fellowship Fund, endowed by the foundation in 1998.

A 1966 graduate of Harvard Business School’s M.B.A. program, Bill George was chief executive at Medtronic Inc., the world’s leading medical technology company, from 1991 until 2001, and served as chairman from 1996 to 2002. Under his leadership, Medtronic’s market capitalization grew 35 percent per year on average, from $1.1 billion to $60 billion. In addition to teaching at Harvard Business School, George serves on several corporate boards. His first book, “Authentic Leadership: Rediscovering the Secrets to Creating Lasting Value,” was acclaimed as one of the best business books of the year in 2003. This spring, he and co-author Peter Sims will publish “True North: Discover Your Authentic Leadership.”

Penny George, a consulting psychologist for more than 20 years, is president of the George Family Foundation, whose funding priorities include leadership development, education, social justice, and spirituality, as well as integrative medicine. (Moving beyond the focus on symptoms that characterize much of contemporary medical practice, integrative medicine draws on the connections between mind, body, and spirit to uncover the deeper sources of illness and promote wellness.) Penny George is also co-founder and past president of the Bravewell Collaborative, a national collaboration that leverages individual philanthropy to promote the practice of integrative medicine.

David T. Ellwood, dean of the Kennedy School, said, “Many of the world’s challenges require cross-sector solutions and leaders who can work effectively across traditional boundaries. The George Family Foundation Fellowship Program will ensure that talented and deserving students will be able to address these challenges and help advance the public good, whether it’s through the public, private, or nonprofit sector.”