Harvard Law School Raises $476 Million in Capital Campaign

In a glitzy celebratory gathering of its wealthiest alumni and donors, Harvard Law School announced that its five-year capital campaign raised over $476 million, making it the most successful in the history of legal education.

When it began in 2003 under then-Dean Robert C. Clark, the capital campaign had a fundraising goal of $400 million to foster the expansion of the faculty, facilities, and financial aid program. The capital campaign ended on June 30, surpassing its target by nearly 20 percent.

Law School Dean Elena Kagan thanked donors for their support at a dinner last night attended by over 400 alumni and guests, including University President Drew G. Faust.

“I’m proud of our graduates’ respect, and, dare I say it, love of this law school,” Kagan said.

One alumnus said that the personal attention paid to him by Clark, who collected $170 million in commitments before handing off the campaign to Kagan, convinced him to contribute.

“Bob Clark came to my house in St. Thomas [in the Virgin Islands] and sat down to talk to me for a whole day,” said Cornelius B. Prior, Jr., a member of the Dean’s Advisory Board who eventually donated over $3 million to the Law School.

In an interview last week, Kagan thanked Clark for the fortuitous timing of the capital campaign, which coincided with a period of economic growth.

“In a time like this, [alumni] just won’t pledge—that’s a problem we didn’t have,” Kagan said.

But the campaign may yet be impacted by the financial crisis, even though it ended before the economic meltdown of recent months. Alumni can choose to spread their donations over up to five years, and the possibility remains that some donors will find themselves financially “overcommitted,” Kagan said.

So far, alumni have honored their pledges to give back to their alma mater, and the Law School has not received “a single phone call” about a donor’s inability to pay, Kagan said.

Two of the largest gifts came from campaign chairman Finn M.W. Caspersen and the family of Lazard CEO Bruce J. Wasserstein, who donated $30 million and $25 million, respectively­—the two largest donations in the school’s history. The Wassersteins’ and Caspersen’s gifts will go toward a facility housing an academic center, a student center, and offices for legal clinics.

In addition, the Law School received $60 million in unrestricted gifts, which can be used at the dean’s discretion.

Last night’s capital campaign celebration kicked off a weekend-long alumni reunion that will feature a series of panels on issues including the Supreme Court, the upcoming presidential election, and public service career options. Distinguished alumni including Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff and political analyst Jeffrey R. Toobin ’82, a former Crimson sports writer, will participate in the panel discussions.

—Staff writer Athena Y. Jiang can be reached at ajiang@fas.harvard.edu.