Campus & Community

2008-09: A look back

long read

As Commencement closes another chapter of the Harvard story, here is a brief backward glance at highlights of the year that was.

JUNE 2008

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) awards Harvard Medical School a $117.5 million, five-year grant for patient-centered research.

Philanthropist Katherine Bogdanovich Loker dies at age 92. Through more than $27 million in gifts, she helped create Loker Commons, restore the Memorial Hall tower, renovate Widener Library, and support women’s athletics.

JULY 2008

Under the aegis of the University Provost’s Office, the Harvard Business School and the Harvard China Fund open an office in Shanghai. A Beijing office is slated to open in the fall. The offices will help Harvard Schools, faculty members, and students pursuing various academic projects in China; facilitate interviews and events for prospective students; and foster collaboration between Harvard and Chinese universities and organizations.

The Greenhouse Gas Task Force, charged with looking at ways in which the University can reduce its carbon emissions, releases its report.

Jane Mendillo, who spent 15 years at the Harvard Management Company before leaving for Wellesley, returns to guide the Harvard endowment.


In the journal Nature, Harvard Stem Cell Institute co-director Douglas Melton and postdoctoral fellow Qiao Zhou report the achievement of a long-sought feat in developmental biology: the transformation of one fully formed adult cell into another kind of fully formed and functioning adult cell.


The University issues some 10,000 “smart” ID cards to FAS students, resident tutors, proctors, dining-service workers, and others needing access to student residential facilities. With their embedded computer chips and radio antennas as well as traditional magnetic strips, the new cards are both more versatile and more difficult to counterfeit. By February, new cards are issued to the rest of the Harvard community.

Harvard announces that during fiscal year 2008, gift receipts totaled nearly $651 million — $37 million more than during the previous year and second only to FY 2001’s $658 million.

Los Angeles philanthropists Eli and Edythe Broad increase their total gift to the Harvard-MIT Broad Institute from $200 million to $600 million. The expanded gift allows the Broad, launched in 2004 as a 10-year “venture experiment,” to become a permanent biomedical research organization.

Three Harvard biologists win MacArthur Foundation grants: Neurobiology Assistant Professor Rachel Wilson, Susan Mango (arriving in July 2009 as a professor of molecular and cellular biology), and Kirsten Bomblies (arriving in July 2009 as an assistant professor in the Organismic and Evolutionary Biology Department).

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet speaks at the Harvard Kennedy School.

Anote Tong, president of the Pacific island-nation of Kiribati, explains the plight of his native land, imperiled by rising global sea levels, in the “Green Conversations” lecture series sponsored by the Center for the Environment.

At the Harvard Medical School, the Harvard Stem Cell Institute holds the third annual Stem Cell Summit. President Drew Faust delivers the opening remarks.

The university presses of Harvard, MIT, and Yale give more than 5,700 books to help rebuild the Iraqi National Library. Using a grant from the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, the Sabre Foundation handles shipping and logistics.

The Cambridge-based Sustainable Endowments Institute gives Harvard an A- on its national “College Sustainability Report Card.” Among the 300 institutions rated for environmentally responsible efforts, only 14 others received this highest grade in the 2008 survey.


Christine Heenan, former director of government relations at Brown University, succeeds Alan Stone as vice president for government, community and public affairs.

European Union President José Manuel Barroso visits President Drew Faust in Massachusetts Hall.

In the Kirkland House Junior Common Room, composer-conductor-pianist André Previn leads a master class in chamber music as a guest of Learning From Performers, the Harvard Music Society of Kirkland House, and the Harvard Piano Society.

Engineer-entrepreneur Hansjörg Wyss (pronounced “vees”), M.B.A. ’65, gives $125 million to establish the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering.

As the grand finale of its 100th-anniversary celebrations, the Business School holds a three-day Centennial Business Summit amid the early rumblings of global economic upheaval.

Harvard holds a University-wide “Sustainability Week,” with a keynote address by environmentalist and former U.S. Vice President Al Gore ’69. Some 15,000 members of the Harvard community attended the kickoff event, and thanks to Harvard’s recycling and composting team, only one bag of trash was sent to a landfill.

Dan Shore, immediate past director of Harvard’s Office of Budgets and Financial Planning, becomes vice president for finance and chief financial officer.

Longtime benefactor and former Harvard curator Emily Rauh Pulitzer, A.M. ’63, gives 31 major works of art and $45 million to the Harvard Art Museum. Included are works by Brancusi, Derain, Giacometti, Lipchitz, Miró, Lichtenstein, Modigliani, Newman, Oldenburg, Picasso, Rosso, Serra, and Vuillard.

The Law School’s Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race & Justice holds a two-day conference on social inequities called “Charting New Pathways to Participation & Membership.” Among the guest panelists are United Farm Workers of America co-founder Dolores Huerta, retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, and retired South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu. The institute presents its Justice Award to all three for their efforts in furthering democracy and equality.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon explores “Securing the Common Good in a Time of Global Crises” at the Harvard Kennedy School.

In Boylston Hall’s Fong Auditorium, Per Wästberg ’55, chair of the committee for the Nobel Prize for literature, discusses behind-the-scenes aspects of the award and its significance as guest of the Harvard Foundation and the Freshman Dean’s Office.

The Harvard Medical School and the Harvard School of Dental Medicine sponsor panels marking the 35th anniversary of the Joint Committee on the Status of Women.


Aided by existing funds from the Ford Foundation, the Edward S. Mason Program (Harvard Kennedy School) devotes $10 million to create the Ford Foundation Mason Fellowship program, designed to train emerging leaders in developing nations. The new effort is announced during the Mason Program’s golden-anniversary celebrations.

The Center for Public Interest Careers (CPIC) receives a $1 million, multiyear gift from Charlotte Chen Ackert ’76 and David Ackert. The gift supports an additional CPIC fellow as well as CPIC activities.

President Drew Faust and Dean Evelynn Hammonds establish the Public Service Committee, a University-wide administrative body charged to consider ways in which Harvard can enhance the infrastructure supporting Harvard College students interested in pursuing public service opportunities at Harvard and after graduation.

President Drew Faust and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino hold a celebration for the Harvard Allston Education Portal (“Ed Portal”), a novel educational program linking families in Boston’s Allston and Brighton neighborhoods with Harvard’s intellectual treasures.

The Ash Institute for Democratic Governance and Innovation (Harvard Kennedy School) announces a major initiative focusing on the study, teaching, and dissemination of solutions to the practical problems of democratic governance.

At the Center for Government and International Studies (CGIS), celebrated Nigerian author Chinua Achebe discusses and reads from his verse as the CGIS Distinguished African Studies Lecturer.

The Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) launches a Greenhouse Gas Reduction Program, under which FAS will aim for a 30 percent reduction in climate-changing emissions by 2016, using a base year of 2006.

Four Harvard students win Rhodes Scholarships. The Oxford-bound quartet consists of Kyle Q. Haddad-Fonda ’09, Malorie Snider ’09, education doctoral candidate Julia Parker Goyer, and Simon Joseph Williams ’09 (announced in December).

Four seniors also capture Marshall Scholarships for two years of study abroad: Kyle Mahowald, Andrew Miller, John Sheffield, and Emma Wu.

The Game. Harvard shuts Yale’s Bulldogs down, 10-0 — and shares the Ivy football crown with Brown.


In a rare special convocation in Sanders Theatre, Harvard presents an honorary doctor of laws degree to U.S. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy ’54 (’56) for his life of extraordinary public service. Illness had prevented Kennedy from attending the 2008 Commencement, when the honor was originally scheduled.

The 19-member Arts Task Force releases its report, calling for greater inclusion of the arts in the curriculum and acceptance of the arts as an integral part of Harvard’s intellectual life. “In prose both elegant and forceful, the report calls for Harvard to end the ‘curricular banishment’ of the arts and recognize that they belong at the core of the University’s educational mission,” says President Drew Faust, who established the group in November 2007.

The Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies holds a symposium to celebrate the 80th birthday of its co-founder, Buttenwieser University Professor Stanley Hoffmann.

At the Schlesinger Library (Radcliffe Institute), AARP President Jennie Chin explores her roots in Boston’s Chinatown in conjunction with the Schlesinger exhibition on “Chinese American Women: From Exclusion to Empowerment.”

To mark World AIDS Day (Dec. 1) and the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Dec. 10), the François-Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights (Harvard School of Public Health) cosponsors a conference on “HIV/AIDS and the Right to Health: Leadership in the U.S. and Globally.”

The Harvard Humanitarian Initiative convenes a panel to examine modern genocide in light of the 60-year-old United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Harvard’s fall-term series of UDHR events concludes with a daylong panel series at the Faculty Club.

Actor-musician-statesman Rubén Blades agrees to donate his personal papers and other materials to the Eda Kuhn Loeb Music Library (Harvard College Library).

Atop Holyoke Center, Harvard installs six AeroVironment wind turbines as its first experiment in wind-generated electrical power. Each of the 6-foot, 90-pound units generates 1 kilowatt. A second test array (with larger, midsize turbines) is slated for the Soldiers Field Parking Garage.


Julio Frenk, former Mexican minister of public health, succeeds Barry R. Bloom as dean of the Harvard School of Public Health.

An archive devoted to conductor-composer-pianist Leonard Bernstein ’39 debuts on the Web, with support from the Academic Technology Group. Materials were assembled through undergraduate seminars and an international Bernstein festival held at Harvard in October 2006.

A survey by the New York-based research firm Appleseed reveals that Harvard activities contributed $4.8 billion to the local economy in 2008. The University also attracts thousands of talented individuals from around the world, with many remaining to start their careers in Greater Boston.


Hasty Pudding Theatricals warmly roasts actress Renée Zellweger as its 59th Woman of the Year and actor James Franco as its 43rd Man of the Year.

A $100 million gift (divided across 10 years) from philanthropists Phillip T. Ragon and Susan M. Ragon establishes the Ragon Institute, a collaborative effort based at Boston’s Massachusetts General Hospital that will engage Harvard, MIT, and other institutions worldwide in the quest for a vaccine to stem the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Harvard Medical School Professor Bruce Walker is the founding director.

The Houghton Library begins a progression of exhibitions and symposia marking the 200th birth anniversary of Abraham Lincoln, the centennial of the founding of the Ballets Russes, the 150th birth anniversary of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and the 300th birth anniversary of Samuel Johnson. Houghton also joins the Cabot Science Library in commemorating the 150th anniversary of “The Origin of Species” by Charles Darwin, who was himself born 200 years ago on the same day as Lincoln.

The Blavatnik Family Foundation gives $10 million, divided equally to support cancer-vaccine research at the Harvard-MIT Broad Institute and early-stage research in the life sciences through Harvard’s Technology Development Accelerator Fund.

The Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research mounts the nation’s first major solo display of photographs by Nigerian artist Rotimi Fani-Kayode (1955-1989).

In line with recommendations of the Arts Task Force report issued in December, President Drew Faust announces plans for new undergraduate concentrations in theater and architecture as well as for creating Harvard’s first master’s program in fine arts. The University also sponsors “Passion for the Arts,” its first large-scale event aimed at encouraging students to concentrate in and pursue careers in the arts and humanities.

The worldwide economic crisis prompts Harvard to offer a voluntary early-retirement program to some 1,600 staff members who are 55 or older with at least 10 years of service. President Drew Faust also scales back the early phases of construction in Allston.

Ronald S. Sullivan Jr., clinical professor of law, and his wife, Stephanie Robinson, an expert in social policy, are named master and co-master of Winthrop House. They succeed Stephen Rosen and Mandana Sassanfar, who will step down in June.

Sociology/Medical Sociology Professor Nicholas Christakis and his wife, Erika Christakis, director of a local parent cooperative preschool, are appointed master and co-master of Pforzheimer House, succeeding James and Sue McCarthy, who have served for 13 years.

To mark the 60th anniversary of the founding of the Federal Republic of Germany and the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, students organize a two-day conference on “Germany in the Modern World: Division and Unity.”

The Hasty Pudding Theatricals Fund for Cultural Enrichment donates $10,000 to the Cambridge Public Schools. Over the past six years, the student group has given more than $70,000 to subsidize tickets to cultural events for thousands of Cambridge schoolchildren.

At the Barker Center for the Humanities, several Harvard centers and departments sponsor a symposium celebrating the birth centennial of French philosopher, writer, and feminist Simone de Beauvoir.

Provost Steven E. Hyman chairs a new 19-member task force charged with examining how to strengthen the Harvard University Library, the world’s largest academic library (containing more than 16 million volumes and vast archival resources).

MARCH 2009

At its annual Cultural Rhythms festival, the Harvard Foundation for Intercultural and Race Relations presents its Artist of the Year Award to actor-musician Dan Aykroyd.

Cherry A. Murray, principal associate director for science and technology at California’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, is appointed dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, effective July 1. She will also hold the Armstrong Professorship of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

In Boylston Hall’s Fong Auditorium, the Harvard Pluralism Project premieres its documentary “Fremont, U.S.A.,” an examination of how that San Francisco Bay community has responded to a recent influx of immigrants from varied religious and cultural backgrounds.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg participates in a Radcliffe Institute conference on “Gender and the Law: Unintended Consequences, Unsettled Questions.”

At the Harvard Kennedy School, Afghan Ambassador Said T. Jawad discusses current conditions in and around his country.

The University Library launches a redesigned Harvard Geospatial Library, the University’s catalog and repository of data for geographic information systems.

The College Admissions Office finishes processing a record high of 29,112 applications for the Class of 2013. The huge pool results in the lowest admissions rate (7 percent) in College history.

Some 150 fieldworkers, disaster-relief scholars, and aid experts attend the third annual Humanitarian Action Summit, sponsored by the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative.

Harvard Law School Dean Elena Kagan is confirmed as the first female solicitor general; other Harvard faculty tapped by the Obama administration include David Barron, David Blumenthal, Ashton B. Carter, David Cutler, Jody Freeman, John P. Holdren, Howard Koh, Jeffrey B. Liebman, Daniel J. Meltzer, Samantha Power, Jeremy C. Stein, Lawrence H. Summers, and Cass R. Sunstein.

APRIL 2009

College Dean Evelynn Hammonds releases a “Report on Harvard House Renewal.” The working document will guide the social and physical enhancement of the House system, a central component of College life for nearly 80 years.

The Graduate School of Design holds a three-day conference on “Ecological Urbanism: Alternative and Sustainable Cities of the Future.”

The Harvard Graduate School of Education celebrates the 10th anniversary of its International Education Program (IEP), a one-year master’s program focusing on educational, social, and policy reform. IEP also maintains a network of education leaders around the globe.

Britain’s Arcadia Fund gives the University Library a five-year, $5 million grant to support acquisitions, access, preservation, and dissemination.

During the annual College-wide Arts First festival, poet John Ashbery ’49 accepts the 15th annual Harvard Arts Medal.

At the Harvard Kennedy School, Gen. David H. Petraeus, chief of the U.S. Central Command, discusses U.S. strategy in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.

The Dalai Lama addresses a capacity crowd at the Memorial Church, delivering a message of compassion in his talk “Educating the Heart.”

MAY 2009

Albert H. Gordon passes away at the age of 107. For decades he was a legend on Wall Street, a champion of Trollope’s novels, and an indefatigable supporter of education. Notably generous to the College and Harvard Business School, Gordon was the University’s “Marathon Man” — the embodiment of the Latin injunction mens sana in corpore sano — whose personal example and copious energy persuaded generations of alumni to give to Harvard more than they had initially intended.

HAA/GSE co-sponsors Harvard’s first “Global Day of Service” on May 8.

JUNE 2009

The Harvard Gay and Lesbian Caucus (HGLC) gives $1.5 million to endow the F.O. Matthiessen Visiting Professorship of Gender and Sexuality. Named after the distinguished gay Harvard faculty member F.O. Matthiessen (1902–50), the professorship represents the first endowed named chair in lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) studies in the country.

Researchers from Harvard Medical School (HMS) have developed a prototype “return on investment calculator” that can measure the value of prevention services. Using a Boston-based mobile health program called the “Family Van” to test the tool, the team finds that for the services provided in 2008, this program, in the long run, will return $36 for every dollar invested.