Approximately 10 Soviet scholars are now studying math at Harvard thanks to a $4.55 million gift from the chair of a Boston investment firm.
The Department of Mathematics formally thanked the donor, Landon T. Clay '50, at a Friends of Harvard Mathematics dinner held in his honor last Tuesday.
Although the donation was made almost a year ago, the department waited for "an auspicious occasion" to publicize it, said Department Chair Arthur M. Jaffe, who holds the professorship in mathematics and theoretical science that Clay endowed in 1968.
Clay, who concentrated in English during his undergraduate years, called the mathematics department "a vibrant place" in remarks at the dinner and said that he was making the gift because "mathematics is the key to understanding science, [and] compared to many scientific projects, in mathematics you get more bang for the buck."
Clay could not be reached for comment yesterday afternoon.
The investor's gift takes the form of 24 yearly payments of nearly $200,000. Jaffe said the department has already received its first installment of the gift and is using it to support about 10 visiting Soviet mathematical students and scholars.
Because the terms of the gift bar the department from immediately founding a professorship with Clay's money, it will probably be spent "to deal with our highest priorities...on a year-to-year basis," Jaffe said.
One of the Soviets who is teaching here said the gift should continue to be used to bring Russian mathematicians to Harvard. "This is the best way of spending this money," Nicolai Reshetikhin said in an interview yesterday.
"I think there's a certain isolation between mathematical life between the Soviet Union and outside the Soviet Union...and it's useful to have certain fresh ideas coming [to Harvard] from this isolated place."
Jaffe said the money could be used to help make "extraordinary new appointments[s]" of top mathematicians to the department's small faculty, but refused to say whom he had in mind. "That would help our competition," Jaffe said.
"One of the reasons we're so good is that we're very elitist about making those [hiring] decisions."
Reshetikhin said he was impressed with Clay's generosity towards the department.
"I think it's such a good deal for America, there are such great people here," said Reshetikhin about the donation. "That's one of the best things for America, that rich people realize their responsibilities."