Billionaire philanthropist Lawrence J. Ellison, the chief executive of the software giant Oracle Corp., said that he will donate $115 million to Harvard for the study of global health initiatives. The gift will become the largest in the history of the University.
“It’s absolutely going to happen,” Ellison said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday.
Donella M. Rapier, Harvard’s vice president for alumni affairs and development, said yesterday that the University would not comment until the agreement is signed, although she did confirm that discussions between Ellison and Harvard were ongoing.
Ellison, who has made a name for himself equally as software doyen and flamboyant aficionado of Italian suits, is the subject of a biography called “The Difference Between God and Larry Ellison.” (The answer, according to its author, Mike Wilson: “God doesn’t think he’s Larry Ellison.)
Kimberly Pineda, an Oracle spokesperson, confirmed yesterday that Ellison will be donating the money to Harvard.
The $115 million gift will be used to establish five professorships, distributed among different schools of the University, and an institute charged with monitoring global health investments.
Saltonstall Professor of Population Policy Christopher J.L. Murray ’83, a former official at the World Health Organization, will become the director of the new institute, Pineda confirmed in an e-mail last night.
The institute will closely follow guidelines Murray proposed in an article last fall in the British Medical Journal.
“The objective of this body would be to report regularly to the world on what is spent on health, what health services are delivered, and the impact of these efforts on population health,” Murray wrote.
Murray could not be reached for comment yesterday.
It became apparent that negotiations between Ellison and the University—which began almost a year ago—were nearing completion when Murray spoke about the grant and outlined his plans for the institute at a closed School of Public Health faculty meeting this past May.
Ellison first spoke of a potential grant—and ruffled feathers in higher education—when he told The Wall Street Journal in 2001 that he was going to donate $150 million to either Harvard or Stanford.
As of yet, no announcement of such a gift to Stanford has been made.
In March, Ellison met with University President Lawrence H. Summers and Murray, although it is unclear if he has met with either of them since then.
According to professors familiar with the grant, Ellison has specified that the money must be spent within three years, at which point more funds may be forthcoming.
The professors spoke to the Crimson on the condition of anonymity last month.
Ellison told the Journal yesterday that he plans to remain actively involved in the institute.
“The obligation of the philanthropist should not end when the check is written,” Ellison said. “There should be some accountability for how that money was used, and how much good was done.”
—Staff writer Natalie I. Sherman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.