With the help of a $15 million gift from one of the University’s most active donors, Harvard will create a new, fully endowed research center for African and African-American Studies next month, financially uniting seven existing initiatives and funding a handful of new programs in the field.
The new center, named the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research after the project’s chief donor Glenn H. Hutchins ’77, will officially launch on Oct. 2 with a ceremony in Sanders Theatre. Construction will begin shortly thereafter to expand and remodel the current home of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research and the other existing initiatives at 104 Mt. Auburn Street to house the Hutchins Center.
The announcement comes just days before the University launches what is expected to be a multibillion dollar capital campaign. Hutchins, the co-founder of the private equity firm Silver Lake, ia a co-chair of the campaign.
University professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr., who has been the director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute since its founding in 1991 and a close friend of Hutchins, helped secure the donation and will serve as founding director of the new center.
“It is one of the greatest days in the history of African and African-American study at Harvard or anywhere in the academy,” Gates told The Crimson on Wednesday. “This is the first research center of its kind to be fully endowed and operating on a major university campus.”
Along with the Du Bois Institute, the new center will encompass six existing African and African-American Studies entities already associated with Du Bois, including the Hiphop Archive and Research Institute, the Image of the Black Archive and Library, the Du Bois Review, Transition Magazine, the Neil L. and Angelica Zander Rudenstine Gallery, and the Hutchins Family Library.
The Hutchins Center will also become home to four new initiatives: the Afro-Latin American Research Institute, the History Design Studio, former Dean of the College Evelynn M. Hammonds’s Program for the Study of Race and Gender in Science and Medicine, and the Ethelbert Cooper Gallery of African and African American Art. The gallery will fill 3,000 square feet of street front space next door to the DuBois Institute’s current office at 104 Mt. Auburn Street and house a collection of continental African and African-American art.
Gates said that Ghanian-British architect David Adjaye will design a new exterior uniting the two spaces. Gates said that he expects construction will be completed in early fall 2014.
Gates stressed the significance of having all the related initiatives in one place, saying that the combined center will allow for new styles of scholarship and interdisciplinary research, which will help Harvard stay at the forefront of the field.
“It will allow interdisciplinary work to go on implicitly because by having people with different takes or focuses on African-American or African studies all under one roof, cross pollination can occur effortlessly and this is one of the purposes of the Center,” Gates said.
Hutchins’ support for the new center comes from a $30 million pledge his family’s foundation made to the University in 2012, much of which was directed towards House renewal in the form of a gift and a commitment to match other gifts through the Hutchins Family Challenge Fund for House Renewal. Previously, Hutchins had also made a $1 million gift to the Du Bois Institute.
Gates said Hutchins has been instrumental in the intellectual founding of the center, a role he hopes Hutchins will continue to fill.
“I value his opinion as much as I value the opinion of anyone,” Gates said. “We want him to be an active participant in the intellectual life of the Center as well as its financial life.”
The University will mark the center’s launch with its annual awarding of the W.E.B. Du Bois Medal. The medal is Harvard’s most prestigious honor for work in the discipline of African and African American Studies and will be given to six recipients, including Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Hutchins won the Du Bois medal in 2006.
Also honored will be Valerie Jarrett, a senior advisor to President Obama, U.S. Rep. John R. Lewis of Georgia, film director Steven Spielberg, playwright Tony Kushner, and David J. Stern, former commissioner of the National Basketball Association.
—Staff writer Matthew Q. Clarida can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @MattClarida.
—Staff writer Nicholas P. Fandos can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @npfandos.
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