This year, more than 700 alumni volunteers will ask their peers to give to Harvard in celebration of a reunion or as an annual gift. Though generations and personal motivations vary, many donors share the same deep gratitude for their College experience and a desire to help advance Harvard as a place of discovery.
While not always in the headlines, their gifts have helped move the Campaign for Arts and Sciences well beyond the halfway mark of its $2.5 billion goal, in the first year of the public phase. These collective contributions are seen in the steady progress to raise $250 million for the Dean’s Leadership Fund — flexible resources that have an immediate impact on curriculum development, financial aid, advising, athletics, arts, and House life.
“It’s about giving back, saying thank you, and focusing on the next generation of students who will be coming to Harvard,” says Tom Brome ’64, a father of three (two of whom are also Harvard alumni), who serves as reunion co-chair for the 1964 Gift Committee and co-chair of the 50th Reunion Program Committee.
In peer-to-peer outreach, he finds it’s never a hard sell to ask classmates to give to Harvard. “We are supporting a world-class institution,” says Brome. “At our age, in our early 70s, we look back on what was most meaningful, and we want to partner in whatever way we can with Harvard.”
Approximately 30,000 alumni give to the Harvard College Fund every year, in large part to reconnect with the community they once knew as students and have since known as alumni.
Valerie Peltier ’89 has been volunteering for her class since her days on the Senior Gift Committee. She and her husband, Jeff Peltier ’88, are passionate about their support.
She gives to ensure that Harvard continues to be the “unbelievable institution that it is.” For Peltier, a key reason why Harvard is great is because of its financial aid initiative. “I want to support Harvard’s mission to bring the best mix of students, regardless of financial circumstances,” she said.
As reunion chair for the 1989 Gift Committee, Peltier sees how many of her classmates are motivated by impact. “People really like to know that their gifts support students today and go right into the College,” she said.
The class is on track to reaching its 25th reunion goal. Participation is key, said Peltier. “We are excited about big gifts to Harvard,” she said, “but we also want people to know that every gift is important. Participation in the community is really vital and produces significant dollars at all levels.”
Emily Lamont ’09, a reunion co-chair for the 2009 Gift Committee, also sees how the idea of community motivates her peers. “The further we get from graduation, the more we can see how amazing Harvard is and how much we gained from it,” said Lamont. “To give back is an indicator that we all care and that we’re all in it together.”
Lamont gives because of Harvard’s ability to advance change. “I love that Harvard changed its financial aid policy and set a new standard. It has such an important ripple effect,” she said. She is excited that the Class of 2009 also has launched a mental health fund to bolster programs that give undergraduates guidance and support.
For all three, their roles as volunteers and donors give them a chance to reconnect with old friends and meet new ones, whether at regional events or at the reunion itself. “It’s incredibly fun,” said Lamont. “There is something magical about this place.”