$265 M Withheld From Harvard

Three major expected donations to Harvard totalling $265 millon have been withheld since University President Lawrence H. Summers announced his resignation in February, according to a Wall Street Journal article published yesterday.

The donors were all supportive of Summers and have indicated that they will withhold the funds until a new Harvard president is found, the Journal reported.

The news comes weeks after Oracle Corp. CEO Lawrence J. Ellison reneged on his $115 million pledge to the University. Ellison said that with Summers’ departure, he “lost confidence that that money would be well spent.”

The donors mentioned in the Journal article include Mortimer Zuckerman, who had planned to give $100 million for a neuroscience institute; former Harvard Corporation member Richard A. Smith, who had planned to give $100 million for a 500,000 square-foot science complex in Allston; and David Rockefeller ’36, who had planned to give $75 million for undergraduates in need of financial aid to study abroad.

Rockefeller gave a $10 million gift to the Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies in May, but according to the article that gift was downgraded from what was originally supposed to be a $75 million sum.

Rockefeller’s spokesman Frank Seitel said yesterday however that Rockefeller had always intended to give just the $10 million. He added that Rockefeller “admired” Summers’ commitment to providing all undergraduates with the opportunity to go abroad.

“Mr. Rockefeller also regretted that President Summers wasn’t going to be leading the university,” Seitel said. However, he added that the philanthropist “has great confidence in Harvard and is a strong supporter and looks forward to working with whoever the next president is.”

Mr. Zuckerman expressed similar sentiments through a statement released to The Crimson, which read, “Mr. Zuckerman had several conversations with Larry Summers. They had neither a final understanding of the project nor a final commitment, or a final agreement. But Mr. Zuckerman looks forward to working again with the new leadership at Harvard.”

Smith could not be reached for comment late yesterday afternoon.

Sarah J. Friedell, a spokeswoman for Harvard Alumni Affairs and Development, told The Crimson that her office thought the slowdown in major donations was to be expected.

“It’s quite typical in situations of leadership transition in any not-for-profit organization for donors giving major gifts to wait for new leadership to be in place before finalizing and announcing a major commitment,” she said.

The Crimson reported last fall that the percentage of Harvard alumni donors to the College has declined steadily since 2001. In fiscal year 2004, the numbers hit a 16-year low at 40% after peaking in 2001 at 48%.

—Staff writer Katherine M. Gray can be reached at kmgray@fas.harvard.edu.