Campus & Community

Making a difference

3 min read

College alumni make big advances toward Harvard’s future with their gifts, both great and small

The chance to make a difference — in Cambridge and beyond — by giving to Harvard appeals widely to alumni across class years. “I like knowing that my part, however small, is making an impact on Harvard because I care deeply about the institution and its mission,” says Rich Krumholz ’07, a gift committee chair for his fifth reunion.

He is not alone. More than 30,000 College alumni are inspired to give back annually — most notably with gifts that can be used today to empower remarkable innovation, fuel substantial levels of financial aid, and inspire new teaching and learning initiatives at Harvard. Rallying toward an ambitious goal of raising $50 million in immediate-use funds by June 30, alumni are steadily closing in on their target.

This year, more than 550 volunteers, inspired by the chance to play an active role in shaping the Harvard experience, gave their time and resources to their 2011-12 reunion campaigns. Their diligence translated into outreach to more than 4,200 peers.

“For Harvard to be the best and keep on growing, it needs alumni support,” says Krumholz. “I know that my great College experience was only possible because of the generosity of generations of alumni who came before me.”

Many alumni give in order to be a part of this legacy. “I was a financial aid recipient and want to keep that virtuous loop of support going,” says Mary Eileen Duffy Cannon ’97. She and her husband, Colbert Cannon, serve as 15th reunion gift committee chairs. “Harvard opened so many doors for me: a great education, social experience, and lifelong friends, including my husband.”

Geraldine Acuna ’92 likes to think of how these gifts – large or small — enable opportunities for students and faculty. “I meet the people who get this money and see not only how it affects their lives at the College but also how it empowers them to pursue their goals in the wider world,” says Acuna, who mentors students and helps interview for the College, in addition to serving as gift chair for her 20th reunion.

Mary Cannon frequently hears from her peers that they give to Harvard to further leadership and excellence in a wide variety of fields. “It’s easy to show how Harvard is providing cutting-edge research across the board,” she says. “Harvard is such a well-managed, well-run institution — it leverages the dollar that you give.”

Giving and volunteering are another way to stay engaged with the Harvard community, says Acuna. “As a class leader, I’m talking with classmates that I have never had the chance to meet before,” she says. “Any kind of connection back to Harvard is life enhancing.”

For many, giving back to Harvard is just as important as a visit back to the Yard.

“I always get teary-eyed when I walk through the Yard and hold my son’s hand,” says Acuna. “It’s not until you are further away from it that you really appreciate the fruits of your education and how it helped to develop your character. It’s the gift that you’ve received.”