Harvard Calls, He Gives
A Profile of Frank Stanton
One day Frank Stanton received an unexpected call asking him to run for Harvard's Board of Overseers, one of the University's two governing boards. What made it even stranger was this was the Ohio Wesleyan graduate's first contact with the country's oldest university.
As Stanton tells it, he never encouraged the nomination. But months later, in a bookstore in London, someone shouted "congratulations" from across the room, and a surprised Stanton discovered that he had been elected an overseer.
Over the last 20 years, Stanton has gotten to know the University better. He has worked on two capital campaigns and donated to several areas of the University, and is an honorary chair of the current campaign.
At 92, Stanton is retired, but he has spent his life associating with the elite in government and broadcasting. He was president of CBS from 1946 to 1971 and then vice-chairman until 1973. The same year, then-President Nixon named him principal officer of the American National Red Cross.
But since Stanton's term as an overseer, Harvard has had a hold on his purse and his heart.
"It's a stimulating society. People are wonderful," Stanton says. "The University is doing, I think, the most outstanding job in the world."
According to Stanton, his fundraising assignment was straightforward. "They asked me to do things, and I just did them," he says.
And when the University asked him to donate, he did. "I'm committed to a substantial contribution in the current campaign," Stanton says. His donation is unrestricted, meaning the University can use it to fund construction, professorships, renovation of the libraries or any other cause they wish.
He refuses to say how much he gave or when the money would be available to the University.
Over the years, Stanton's efforts have spanned the different schools. He has donated money to endow three chairs and given for a special fund at the School of Public Health. He was on the Dean's Council at the School of Public Health, and chaired the visiting committee for the Graduate School of Design and the Kennedy School of Government.
Now, as an honorary campaign chair, he just " tried to get other people to give money."
Stanton is in an unusual position--a non-Harvard graduate running in the most Harvard of circles.
After graduating from Ohio Wesleyan, Stanton attended Ohio State University for graduate work in experimental psychology.
It was a friend he met in broadcasting, Andrew Heiskell, then chair of the board, who first introduced the idea of being an overseer.
"I said 'But, Andrew, I didn't go to Harvard.' He said 'Serves them right,' and hung up," Stanton recalls.