Kennedy School's Belfer Center Receives $15 Million

A $15 million gift to the Kennedy School of Government will help fund a new cyber security project at the school’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.

The gift—funded by investor Robert A. Belfer, his wife Renée, and their son Laurence D. Belfer ’88—brings the Kennedy School’s capital campaign total to $485 million, just short of its $500 million goal. It is one of “the most generous individual gifts” the Kennedy School has received, according to Doug Gavel, a spokesperson for the school.

The new cyber security project will aim to address digital threats to national security. Michael L. Sulmeyer, a former Pentagon official who will direct the project, said the initiative has three goals: produce “top-flight analytic research,” provide Kennedy School students and undergraduates “exposure to cyber security threats and the policy that relates to them,” and create a “fellows program” to analyze and work on issues of cyber security.

Belfer, for whom the Center has been named since 1997, said he made the donation in response to what he perceives as an increased threat of cyberattacks on the United States.

“It’s clear that cyber security at this point is the number one threat to the security of the United States,” Belfer said.

Indeed, cyberattacks have received increased attention in recent years. Last June, at least four million former and current government workers were affected by what appeared to be one of the largest breaches of federal employee data, a hack that seemed to originate in China. Harvard itself suffered a cyber attack last summer, prompting administrators to request that thousands of students and employees change their passwords. Last spring, the website of the Institute of Politics was also hacked, allegedly by a pro-Palestinian group.

According to Belfer, $5 million of the gift will be specifically allocated to the cyber security project. The remaining $10 million will go toward creating a “New Initiatives Fund” that will support a range of emerging projects and programs beyond cyber security.

Belfer said he hoped the additional money could be directed to a variety of projects and follow-up programs; in particular, he said, he would like to see a program focusing on China.

The Kennedy School publicly launched its portion of the University’s capital campaign in 2014 and supports a number of school-wide initiatives, most notably a major remodeling and expansion of its campus. While fundraising, school administrators have often turned to non-alumni for donations.

—Staff writer Nathaniel J. Hiatt can be reached at nathaniel.hiatt@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @nathaniel_hiatt.

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