Campus & Community

A gift for public service

4 min read

New Mindich programs will support College students’ efforts to help others

Each year, thousands of Harvard College students participate in public-service activities on campus, in their communities, and around the world. The School’s commitment to ensuring that every undergraduate has the opportunity to engage in service received a big boost this week thanks to a generous gift from Eric Mindich ’88 and Stacey Mindich.

Responding to President Drew Faust’s call to service, the new Mindich Program in Engaged Scholarship will provide the infrastructure to link public-service activities directly to the curriculum and expand the options for undergraduate courses with public-service components. Additionally, funding will be available through the Mindich Service Fellows Program for extracurricular summer work in public-service organizations.

“Service to society is at the heart of Harvard’s mission,” said Faust. “The Mindich family’s generosity will encourage and enable more of our students to explore public service in both summer activities and academic work, and to understand the importance of public service in shaping the kind of world we hope to build.”

A number of faculty members at the College already infuse public service into their teaching through experiential learning opportunities. Students in courses such as “Practicing Democracy,” “Reinventing Boston,” and “Poverty in America” engage in service to the community in a manner that informs and motivates academic coursework.

The Mindich Program will ensure that 14 new courses are developed — two per year for the next seven years — and that this engaged scholarship initiative is able to achieve both academic rigor and quality service. Courses will incorporate reading and writing activities that directly relate to the participating students’ service experiences. This will enable students to draw connections between their intellectual interests and their commitment to service, as well as reflect on ways that academic learning can contribute to addressing contemporary community needs and social problems.

Rakesh Khurana, Danoff Dean of Harvard College, eagerly anticipates the effect the Mindich family’s support will have on the student experience.

“I cannot think of a gift more important to the legacy of Harvard College and am deeply indebted to both Eric and Stacey Mindich for their generosity,” said Khurana. “At a time when we as a society are tackling urgent and pervasive social issues, this gift will enable our students and our faculty to address these problems through rigorous academic research and hands-on experience.”

In addition, the gift will support the newly established Mindich Service Fellows Program to provide financial support for up to 75 undergraduates each year. Recipients will receive stipends to support their summer service activities, helping them clear a significant hurdle for most college students interested in service.

Gene Corbin, the assistant dean for public service at the College, said that these fellowships go a long way in fulfilling the high demand of students looking to spend their summers in service organizations.

“As of today, the number of available service scholarships does not meet the demand of undergraduates wanting to devote their summers to service. We know that immersion in summer service has the greatest impact both on our students and the people they serve,” said Corbin. “I am thrilled that an additional 75 students each summer will have access to these transformative experiences and that our students will increasingly be able to connect their service to academic learning.”

A hiring search is currently underway for the first director of the Mindich Program, and the inaugural cohort of Mindich Fellows will be awarded this academic year for next summer.

“My time at Harvard was transformative, both what I learned in the classroom and what I experienced outside of it,” said Eric Mindich. “This innovative program will allow future generations of exceptionally talented and passionate undergraduates to pursue their natural interest in public service, enrich their own experiences, and engage with and benefit the world around them.”

The $15 million gift will endow both programs. As a result of this gift, Phillips Brooks House — the home for undergraduate public-service organizations since 1900 — will be renamed the Phillips Brooks House Center for Public Service and Engaged Scholarship to reflect its administration of these new curricular and extracurricular operations.

Eric Mindich, who as an undergraduate found his own outlet for service through Harvard’s Institute of Politics, is the founder and CEO of Eton Park Capital Management. He also currently serves as president of the board of directors of Lincoln Center Theater, and as a trustee of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Mount Sinai Medical Center, and the Horace Mann School.

Stacey Mindich is a Tony Award-winning theater producer and co-chair of the board of New York City Center.