As a financial aid recipient and first-generation college student from Montreal, Tim Barakett had personal experiences that shaped his philanthropy. When he moved into the Yard for his freshman year, he was welcomed into the Harvard community by new classmates from many backgrounds — from his hockey teammates to his Canaday Hall dorm mates. He received a transformative education that extended from the classroom to the rink.
“When I was a freshman, my roommates and many of my friends were from profoundly different walks of life — and that was an eye-opening experience for me. We learned so much from each other,” said Barakett. “Harvard’s incredible financial aid program brings this range of life experience and perspective to the student body, which benefits everyone.”
Grateful for his opportunities at Harvard, Barakett ’87, M.B.A. ’93, has always felt a responsibility to give back. To help advance the College’s financial aid program, he and his wife, Michele, have donated $25 million to The Harvard Campaign for Arts and Sciences. They have established two new funds for undergraduate students, and committed $1 million to the hockey program that was an important part of Barakett’s undergraduate experience. Their generosity continues a legacy of support for Harvard College that began in 1997 with their first scholarship fund.
Their newest endowed scholarship will give the Griffin Financial Aid Office the ability to support the full demonstrated financial need of undergraduates, including tuition, room, board, and other expenses. This expansive fund will provide the flexibility to meet student needs as they change and grow over time.
William R. Fitzsimmons, Harvard College dean of admissions and financial aid, said, “As a fellow hockey player, financial aid recipient, and first-generation college student, I met Tim when he first arrived in Cambridge. I know well from personal experience what a difference this kind of flexible financial aid gift can make to students’ lives. Tim’s and Michele’s thoughtfulness, generosity, and commitment to pay it forward mean a great deal to me personally, and I know Tim’s adviser and mentor, the late Fred Jewett ’57, my predecessor as dean of admissions, would have been thrilled.”
The Baraketts also have endowed the new startup grant program, which will award $2,000 to every incoming freshman in the Class of 2020 whose family income is $65,000 or less. Announcing the program in March, Harvard President Drew Faust, the Lincoln Professor of History, said, “By investing in financial aid, we want Harvard to be accessible and affordable for the most talented students, no matter their background or financial circumstances. At the start of what surely will be one of the most transformative experiences of their lives, we want to ensure that all students are able to explore what Harvard has to offer.”
“The startup grants,” Barakett noted, “are about creating equity, not just providing access, and as such complement scholarship funds. Michele and I want to give students more financial freedom to choose their activities, whatever they may be — doing public service, getting involved in student organizations, or even just the freedom to have dinner in a restaurant with classmates — because these experiences are such an important part of their student life and education. We want to help empower them to create their best Harvard experience, and never to feel they are on the periphery.”
This commitment to the entire student experience extends to mentoring his scholars. As chairman and founder of TRB Advisors LP, a private investment firm, Barakett has helped students with professional networking and advising after graduation. This is also why he has taken on leadership roles as an alumnus, serving as a co-chair for financial aid and for The Campaign for Arts and Sciences.
“I want to make sure that everyone understands the importance of financial aid and recognizes that the financial aid program is not fully endowed at Harvard. A gift to financial aid has a greater impact than just four years of college for these students. This is an investment in extraordinary students who will leave Harvard and go on to make a significant impact on the world,” said Barakett.
Michael D. Smith, the Edgerley Family Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, reinforced the impact of this investment, saying, “Our mission of educating citizens and citizen leaders extends beyond the classroom, and Tim and Michele recognize the importance of supporting all aspects of student life. Their generosity will ensure that students can pursue the passions and the ideas that should define their Harvard experience. We couldn’t ask for better champions for financial aid than Tim and Michele.”