Campus & Community

Donella Rapier to step down as vice president for alumni affairs and development

4 min read

Donella M. Rapier, vice president for alumni affairs and development, announced today (Feb. 26) that she will step down from her position effective June 30, 2007.

“Harvard has been fortunate to have someone with Donella’s energy and dedication leading our efforts to engage our alumni and friends and to ensure that we have the financial resources we need to embrace important opportunities in the coming years,” said Derek Bok, interim president of the University. “Our continued financial strength during a difficult period of transition is due in no small part to the efforts of Donella’s leadership of our extraordinary development team.”

“I am deeply grateful for the opportunity I have had to serve Harvard and to work with a truly amazing community of colleagues and friends of the University,” said Rapier. “I am glad that I will leave to my successor and to the next president such a strong team and an exciting fundraising agenda.”

Rapier was named vice president for alumni affairs and development in October 2003 by President Lawrence H. Summers. In this capacity, Rapier has had overall responsibility to support and engage a vibrant worldwide community of Harvard University’s alumni and friends. She has capably led the University’s fundraising efforts in support of its mission.

“I want to thank my extraordinary staff for their dedication and hard work and our wonderful network of alumni and friends for their unmatched generosity and energy,” said Rapier. “It has been a great honor to be a part of the effort that supports our faculty, students, and researchers in their incomparable efforts.”

Over the past three fiscal years, Harvard has raised more than $1.7 billion from alumni and friends. Harvard announced last September that cash receipts from gifts totaled $596 million for fiscal year 2006, the second highest total in Harvard’s history. Rapier also was instrumental in establishing the $50 million Professorship Challenge, which encourages alumni to provide much needed incremental resources for faculty support on a University-wide basis.

In addition to fundraising, Rapier has led a major advance in the coordination of alumni and development activities across the University. As a part of this effort, she helped create a single University-wide database for alumni affairs and development, consolidating eight separate stand-alone systems into one. In addition, she facilitated a new University-wide gift crediting policy designed to encourage alumni to consider giving gifts to parts of the University with which they have no prior affiliation. This reform has already helped support areas of the University most in need of additional resources.

As vice president, Rapier also helped to create several University-wide committees to examine issues of University finances, planned development for Harvard’s Allston presence, enhanced science and engineering at the University, and improved and expanded financial aid. Each of these committees has tapped the expertise of many alumni and friends with expertise in these critical areas.

“Donella has brought strong professional management and oversight to alumni affairs and development,” said John P. Reardon, executive director of the Harvard Alumni Association. “We are extremely grateful for her leadership and outstanding efforts on behalf of the University and its alumni.”

Prior to becoming vice president, Rapier served as associate dean for external relations and chief financial officer at Harvard Business School (HBS), where she played a leading role in planning and executing the first School-wide capital campaign in HBS history, which ultimately raised nearly $600 million.

Rapier became the Business School’s CFO in August 1996 under Dean Kim Clark, and in March 2001 assumed responsibility for the School’s external relations functions as well. In this capacity, Rapier oversaw all HBS alumni outreach activities and development. As senior financial adviser to the dean, she oversaw all aspects of the School’s finances, including long-range financial planning, budgeting, and reporting. She also taught accounting courses at both Harvard Business School and at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.

Rapier received a B.S. degree, summa cum laude, from California State University, Northridge, and her M.B.A. from Harvard Business School.

“Donella’s understanding of the University’s diverse needs and ability to implement changes to make best use of resources will serve as hallmarks of her service to Harvard,” said Paul Finnegan, president of Harvard Alumni Association. “I have enjoyed working with Donella and I wish her well in her future endeavors.”