$15M Gift Funds Asia Center Growth

Fung Foundation endows research, study abroad, library

Harvard has received $15 million from the Victor and William Fung Foundation to expand the University’s Asia Center, the administration will announce today.

The donation will strengthen the center’s research and encourage student study abroad.

The benefactors are Victor Fung, a 1971 graduate and former faculty member at the Harvard Business School (HBS) and William Fung, who graduated from HBS in 1972.

“Our goal is to promote understanding between the United States and greater China as well as to give students at all levels the opportunity to start meaningful dialogues with scholars from Asia early on in their careers,” Victor Fung said in a statement.

The gift will be divided into three parts. The first will be used to enlarge a library in the north building of the Center for Government and International Studies, to be named the “H.C. Fung Library.”

Another third will endow the directorship of the Asia center, enhancing faculty research through discretionary funds. The remaining $5 million will create scholarships for undergraduates and graduates to study in China and the U.S. over the next five years.

“It’s not only generous but it’s a very appropriate gift,” said Anthony Saich, the director of the Asia Center. “It covers the three major areas that one is engaged in at the University.”

In a statement, University President Lawrence H. Summers said, “This generous gift from William and Victor Fung and the Fung family will enhance the Asia Center by promoting new faculty research and enabling students to experience firsthand countries they have previously known only from books.”

The contribution will endow Fung scholars, a group of undergraduates who are selected through the international student office. They will have the opportunity to travel to China to study and participate in internships.

The gift will also allow eight students from mainland China and Hong Kong, nominated by their schools, to attend Harvard’s two-year master’s degree programs. Already, seven candidates have been chosen for next fall.

Saich said today’s announcement comes after years of “negotiation between faculty priorities and the wishes of the donor” and is one aspect of an on-going effort on the part of Victor Fung to support Harvard. In addition to being a former professor at HBS, Victor Fung has been continuously involved with the University, serving as an adviser to the Asia Center, chairman of HBS’ Asia-Pacific Advisory Board and member of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences’ Dean’s Council.

William C. Kirby, the outgoing dean of FAS and a former director of the Asia Center praised the timing of the donation.

“There has never been a more critical time to study Asia, its increasing interconnectedness, its decreasing borders, and its global impact,” Kirby said in a statement. “The Fung Family gift will have tremendous bearing on the work of the Asia Center and across Harvard.”

The Asia Center was founded in 1997 to “reflect Harvard’s deep commitment to Asia and the growing connections between Asian nations,” according to the center’s website. The center offers grants to faculty and students and connects academic, business and political interests.

—Staff writer Claire M. Guehenno can be reached at guehenno@fas.harvard.edu.