When alumnae wrote $72 million worth of checks payable to "Radcliffe College," they had no warning their money would end up in Harvard's bank account--through the new Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study.
Before Tuesday's historic announcement that the 120-year-old institution would merge with Harvard, Radcliffe had been nearing the close of a seven-year, $100 million capital campaign. Though, as recently as two weeks ago, the campaign had a significant distance to go before reaching its goal, Radcliffe officials insisted they had several major gifts in the works.
But now the University will have to explain the switch to donors who have been kept in the dark about Radcliffe's plans for the last year. Officials from both institutions have said they are cautiously optimistic that donors will understand, but they're still waiting for the final verdict.
The retraction of donations is "certainly hypothetically possible," said Radcliffe's Vice President for College Relations Bonnie R. Clendenning.
She noted that when Wheaton College, a women's institution in Norton, went coeducational in 1988 immediately after finishing its capital campaign, alumnae pulled some $400,000 of recently donated funds.
"It was terrible timing," Clendenning said.
Now, Radcliffe faces the unenviable task of stepping up fundraising for the new Institute while simultaneously explaining to alumnae, like Adeline Naiman '46, that their alma mater is no more.
"I just don't see where the intimate connection is going to come from for the giving," Naiman said.
For many long-time donors to Radcliffe, giving money to Harvard--even through a Radcliffe institute--is a hard pill to swallow.
"A lot of people don't trust Harvard. Harvardhas a very large endowment, and Harvard doesn'tspend it voluntarily on things that we wouldlike," said Naiman, who has given annually toRadcliffe. "When all of us die off and have nomore wills to bequeath things in, will [Harvard]stop caring about this [Institute]?"
Radcliffe and Harvard will together have toconvince older alumnae, many of whom have the mostmoney to give, that their gift will be along-lasting legacy. In Tuesday's pressconference, Harvard President Neil L. Rudenstinenoted that any institute for advanced study mustsustain itself primarily through donations.
"We're still under the gun to raise just asmuch money," Clendenning said.
The chairman of the Radcliffe Board ofTrustees, Nancy-Beth G. Sheerr '71, has saidRadcliffe will still strive for at least $100million in gifts to help make its new Instituterun.
However, no decision has been made aboutwhether the effort will be billed as thecompletion of the independent Radcliffe campaignor subsumed into a larger Harvard effort.
"That is an unresolved issue, and we will needto talk about it," Sheerr said. "We willhopefully--and I'm sure [we will]--complete thiscapital campaign successfully. It might beextended and enlarged."