Belfer the Man


Combining a determination to help educate public servants with a desire to repay his adopted country Robert A. Belfer donated his name and more than a $1 million to the Kennedy School of Government for the new Belfer Center for Public Management.

President of the Belco Petroleum Corporation, Belfer says he is aware of the "awesome power of the government and the budget issues facing it"--and hence of the need for well educated government officials.

"Being in the petroleum industry and being subjected to a lot of regulations, taxation's, and oil prices, [I feel that] to a large extent what happened in Washington had a greater impact on the success or failure of my company than anything I might do on the management side," Belfer says.

Enhancing public management" is the most critical area to try to make public improvement," says the 1958 Harvard Law graduate, who is also a member if the Kennedy School visiting committee.

"Data is constantly being accumulated to help businessmen make better judgements, while there is a limited amount of analysis available for broad public management," states Belfer, who has never actually served in government.

The Center for Business and Government, the Energy and Environmental Policy Center, and the new Center for Press, Politics, and Public Policy "will develop an in-depth analysis of components in these problem areas," Belfer adds.

Belfer cites the centers' ability to examine such issues as the relationship between Japanese business and government or the necessary but often overlooked "trade-offs" between the press and government as essential to improving public management.

But the Fortune 400 executive's decision to contribute to the K-School was more than just an appreciation for the difficult and important tasks faced by public managers.

A Jewish Pole who fled his native country in 1942, Belfer has "acquired a sense of appreciation for what a wonderful and imperfect country this is... always striving to better itself."

The Belfer Center for Public Management is "as an effective way as I know how to express my gratitude for finding a haven in this country and for enjoying the fruits and benefits that it has provided," Belfer concludes.