$1M gift to Art Museums for student guide program

Student guides looking at an art piece

David Odo, director of student programs (left), and student guides at the Harvard Art Museums./Matthew Monteith; ©President and Fellows of Harvard College

3 min read

The Harvard Art Museums have received a $1 million gift from George Ho, A.B. ’90, Henry Ho, A.B. ’95, and Rosalind “Sasa” Wang to establish the Ho Family Student Guide Fund, which will support research and training for the museums’ student guide program.

The museums’ student guides — now known as Ho Family Student Guides — are Harvard undergraduates who are trained to design and offer unique, thematic tours about select objects for university and community audiences. Participants come from a wide range of backgrounds, including art history, visual and environmental studies, the sciences, history, and literature. Through their training, the students gain knowledge of the collections and develop skills in critical thinking, visual analysis, public speaking, and leadership.

The Ho Family Student Guide Fund will underwrite the student guide program, providing financial support for needs ranging from compensation and training to research opportunities that will foster the development of each guide.

“The Harvard Art Museums are grateful for this significant display of support for our students,” said Martha Tedeschi, the museums’ Elizabeth and John Moors Cabot Director. “We have a unique responsibility to an evolving group of brilliant minds — students whose development depends on the strength of our programs. With this gift, the Ho family has enabled us to further animate a program that is preparing the next generation of arts leaders.”

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The Ho family’s gift was made in late 2018, after Henry C. Ho, chairman and CEO of Tung Ho Steel Enterprise in Taipei City, Taiwan, visited the Harvard Art Museums. With a plan to support the arts at Harvard, Henry met with Tedeschi and David Odo, director of student programs and research curator for university initiatives. He also experienced curated tours by several student guides. The students’ expertise and enthusiasm so impressed him that he and his family opted to dedicate their entire gift to the student guide program.

“I was particularly intrigued by the perspective presented by the non-art students,” said Ho. “They developed new interpretations that augmented the traditional understanding of the artist’s work. A different dialogue was created in the process which allowed the museum visitors to have a new experience. I think the student guide program is great manifestation of Harvard’s cross-disciplinary education at work.”

With its aim of supporting the next generation of arts leaders, the Ho Family Student Guide Fund aligns perfectly with the Harvard Art Museums’ pedagogical mission, said Odo. “The Ho Family Student Guide program offers students the opportunity to both study art and interpret it within the unique contexts of their respective academic disciplines, their knowledge of artistic practice, and their personal experiences,” Odo said.

Tours by Ho Family Student Guides are offered throughout the year. This summer, they will be offered every Saturday and Sunday, at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. Tours are free with museums admission, limited to 15 people, and available on a first-come, first-served basis (no registration required). For more information, check the museums’ calendar.