UPDATED: September 8, 2014, at 1:35 p.m.
A charitable foundation run in part by Gerald L. Chan, an alumnus and longtime benefactor of the Harvard School of Public Health, has pledged $350 million to the school, the largest single donation in Harvard’s history, the University announced this afternoon.
In recognition of the gift, the University will rename the school the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, in honor of Chan’s late father. This is the first time in its history that Harvard has renamed one of its schools in recognition of philanthropy. Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government was named in memorial of former United States President John F. Kennedy ’40 in 1966.
The gift comes from the Morningside Foundation, which is supported by Gerald Chan and his brother Ronnie Chan. It was officially announced at 12:30 p.m at an event at the School of Public Health in the Longwood Medical Area.
The gift is among the largest single donations in the history of higher education. Only a handful, including gifts of $1 billion to Vedanta University in India and $600 million to the California Institute of Technology, have been larger.
The gift’s principal amount of $350 million will be handled by the Harvard Management Company as a part of the University's endowment, and annual dividends will flow into the School of Public Health’s budget, which is heavily reliant on federal and non-federal sponsorship. As of June 2013, the school’s portion of the University's endowment total was valued at a little more than $1.1 billion.
Gerald Chan, who made his fortune in private equity and venture capital, earned two degrees at the School of Public Health in the 1970s and has remained involved in the school. Chan’s Morningside Foundation endowed a professorship at the School of Public Health in 2012, the same year he addressed the school’s graduates at its annual commencement exercises. He has also served as a member of the school’s board of dean’s advisors and taught a Wintersession course at the school.
Chan, who lives in Newton, Mass., has also quietly bought more than $100 million in real estate in Harvard Square in recent years. His father, after whom the school is named, founded one of Hong Kong’s largest real estate firms in 1960.
“I’ve been around Harvard for 40 plus years now, and I really feel that the School of Public Health has a very unique voice,” Chan said in an interview Friday. “There are parts of the school which speak for economic efficiency. There are parts for the school which speak for other approaches to solving problems…. I think the HSPH has a very unique voice which should be heard more clearly within the larger community.”
Chan and top University officials spoke with The Crimson under the condition that their remarks not be published until midnight Monday.
Chan said that he approached William F. Lee ’72, a longtime friend and the senior fellow of the Harvard Corporation, with a rough proposal for the gift about six months ago.
“I brought this up to Bill to see if it was doable, to see if it was interesting,” Chan said. “And they thought it was interesting.”
Chan’s gift comes seven months after Kenneth C. Griffin ’89 gave $150 million to the College and the Business School, with most of the money earmarked for undergraduate financial aid. Driven by gifts from Griffin and others, the Harvard Campaign—which launched publicly last September with a goal of $6.5 billion—has gotten off to a fast start. As of the end of this March, Harvard had raised $3.8 billion across all of its schools.
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