Campus & Community

$12.3 million gift to Center for Ethics

3 min read

Donation from Lily Safra will support, expand facility’s mission

Harvard University has received a gift of $12.3 million from Lily Safra in memory of her late husband, Edmond J. Safra, a prominent philanthropist and founder of the Republic National Bank of New York. The gift will help support the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics, permanently endow the graduate fellowship program, and fund the recently launched research lab.

The Edmond J. Safra Foundation contributed $10 million to endow the center in 2004.

“We are grateful for this timely gift to the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics,” said Harvard President Drew Faust. “At a moment in history when many people are examining the global financial system and the role of public institutions, we will all benefit from serious research into the increasing complexity of public life and the ethical issues faced by corporate leaders.”

“This gift will allow the center to build upon its remarkable success and continue to shape dialogue on critical ethical issues across the University and beyond,” added Harvard Provost Steven E. Hyman.

Safra said, “I have always considered it a wonderful privilege to be able to count myself among the Edmond J. Safra Center’s friends and supporters, and I am delighted to offer this additional support for the center’s vitally important work. If we truly value justice and basic human dignity, ethical questions need to be part of every field of study and every policy discussion.”

Prior gifts helped to endow the Edmond J. Safra Graduate Fellowships in Ethics and a faculty fellowship in ethics. A portion of the new funding will fully endow the graduate fellowship program and ensure that the Center for Ethics’ role in training younger scholars and developing future leaders in ethics will continue.

Since its founding more than 20 years ago, the center’s fellowship programs have hosted more than 250 scholars, some of whom have gone on to establish ethics centers at other universities.

A sampling of this year’s fellowship topics includes projects examining financial ties between the pharmaceutical industry and psychiatric treatment boards, determining which psychological factors predict whether whistleblowers will be praised or rejected, and understanding the interaction of policy and daily attitudes toward risk in the financial industry.

Lawrence Lessig, director of the Center for Ethics and a Harvard Law School professor, launched the new research lab to address fundamental problems of ethics in a way that provides benefit to government and society. The lab’s first project focuses on the problem of institutional corruption.

“We are enormously fortunate to have this extraordinary gift from Lily Safra,” said Lessig. “This gift will allow us to extend our work to important and timely questions of institutional corruption.”

Safra, a longtime member of the center’s advisory council, has participated regularly in the center’s seminar and public programs. She is known for her philanthropy, patronage of the arts, and longtime support for educational, scientific, medical, and humanitarian organizations around the world.

To read the full release.