When Harvard's top two administrators suddenly announced their plans to step down last year, many of the officials planning the upcoming multi-billion dollar fundraising drive shuddered.
Finding a new president meant conducting a six to eight month search, and that meant putting the Harvard Fundraising Machine into neutral for up to a year. Alumni and officials worried that the drive might lose its momentum in the nine to 12 month interim.
But with the presidential search apparently on schedule, fundraisers are a little more at ease today. They say they are cautiously optimistic that the fund drive will succeed, and have even begun talking about raising the target from between $2 and $2.5 billion to $3 billion.
"It is vital for the president and the dean [of the Faculty] to be in place," says Peter L. Malkin '55, a Harvard overseer who is helping to plan the campaign. "So there is no alternative but to proceed as we have. We'll have better results working in this way."
Momentum is still a prime concern, especially since Harvard is trying to raise more money than any institution of higher learning has ever raised before. Frederick C. Nahm, who is vice president for development at the University of Pennsylvania, says Harvard's top fundraisers will have to work even harder to make sure those working at the roots of the campaign are still as motivated a year later.
First in a three-part series on the status of Harvard's upcoming capital campaign.
"From my personal experience, anytime there is a delay in launching a campaign, the staff get impatient," Nahm says. "Look at it as an issue of staff energy and enthusiasm to begin the campaign. It's like a team in the preseason, getting ready for the first game. If the season is delayed, there is a question of the team losing its edge."
Ernest M. Monad '51, a Boston-area fundraiser, says he understands the University must wait for new leadership, but is nonetheless eager to start the drive.
"I'm a little like a horse in a panic, waiting at the gates," Monad says. "I think we're ready to go, I'm convinced of the merits of the campaign, and I'm anxious."
And once the successor to outgoing president Derek C. Bok is chosen, Monad notes, the fundraisers may still have to wait--while the new president works out final campaign plans with the University's deans.
"A lot depends on the new president," Monad says. "If he comes in and [the deans] get into a deadlock [over the campaign], they'd have to rethink it. This is not a one- or two-person thing, all the deans get together and discuss their priorities."
However, University officials are already trying to remove these potential obstacles.
"The hope is that the new president will be chosen before the end of winter, and the new dean quickly after that, so it shouldn't be a major delay," says Malkin.
Even Bok has remained actively involved with the campaign preparations, just to make sure the effort does not die when he leaves this June. Monad says Bok is hosting special alumni dinners, as well as holding informal meetings with potential donors, in an effort to explain the campaign's goals.
According to Monad, that means the new president will have a much easier time adjusting.