Alumnus Gives University $30M Donation

Harvard announced a $30 million gift from Joseph J. O’Donnell ’67 and Katherine A. O’Donnell on Tuesday. The gift is the latest in a string of donations as the University moves closer to the launch of a University-wide capital campaign.

Joseph O’Donnell cited House renewal and financial aid among the areas where his gift could benefit the school, but said that a final decision regarding its allocation has yet to be determined.

The University is currently in its quiet phase of a capital campaign that has been years in the making. During the quiet phase, institutions typically hope to raise a significant portion of their final campaign goal.

O’Donnell said he hopes that his gift will bolster the University’s donation count during the quiet phase.

“It’s an early gift and hopefully that will encourage others to give early, rather than late, and we intend to solicit as many gifts as we can,” O’Donnell said. “We haven’t gone beyond the quiet phase yet.”

O’Donnell is a member of the Corporation, the University’s highest governing body, and in this capacity is involved in the planning of the campaign.

Since the first rumblings of the capital campaign, people have speculated that House renewal and development in Allston could be focuses of the upcoming campaign.

During his time at Harvard, O’Donnell was what he described as a “scholarship kid.” That experience, he said, inspired him to give.

“There’s a real sense of payback for a lot of people who came a generation before me...who built those buildings and basically provided for the schools who admit students like me and that’s even more true today,” he said.

O’Donnell described University President Drew G. Faust as “spectacular” and said that her leadership gave him the confidence to donate to the University at this time.

“If the school weren’t the proper steward for all that money, I’d feel differently. If it had different leadership, I’d feel differently,” he said.

Faust praised the gift in a statement.

“A gift of this magnitude, at this important time in our history, is indicative of the leadership that has defined Joe’s relationship with Harvard since he arrived in Cambridge nearly half a century ago,” she wrote.

O’Donnell has been an active member in Harvard’s alumni community for years. In 1995, he donated $2.5 million to endow a chair for the coach of the baseball team, which he played on during his time at Harvard. He also served as a member of the Board of Overseers prior to joining the Corporation.

In the past year, the University has also received a number of gifts dedicated to continued efforts to develop “teaching and learning” at Harvard. Rita E. and Gustave M. Hauser donated $40 million to this effort last fall.

—Staff writer Hana N. Rouse can be reached at

—Staff writer Justin C. Worland can be reached at


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