Psst! Wanna Buy Harvard?

You probably don't have enough money to convince the University to change its name. In fact, it's probably not even worth guessing how much it would take. We gave it a try, anyway.

Some schools are named for presidents. Others take the name of their founders.

Harvard, though, is named for some rich guy. For œ779 in books and property, John Harvard unwittingly bought himself immortality. The College was for sale in those days--at least its name was.

In the three-and-a-half centuries since then, various benefactors have bought chunks of the now-famous University. Harvard survives by inducing alumni to give, and it gets alumni to give by enticing them with tangible rewards: The Wideners bought a library, for example. The Sacklers bankrolled a museum. Raising funds that amount to one third of the University's annual budget, Harvard officials will go to any length to please a potential sponsor.

But, the ambitious benefactor may want to know, is the name for sale anymore? In other words, how much would it cost to buy Harvard University?

"Well," ponders Dean of Students Archie C. Epps III, "the endowment is five billion...and then there's the brand name." Pausing a moment to calculate, Epps figures, "That's about a trillion dollars."


Dean of the College L. Fred Jewett '57: "I'd say that it's priceless, but then somebody might come up with an offer that would make me think."

"I think I'd go a long way for the right price," Jewett adds.

Of course, the dramatic decision to change Harvard's doesn't exactly fit the job description of Harvard College officials.

We put the question to the author of The University: An Owner's Manual, Corporation member, Geyser University Professor and former Dean of the Faculty Henry Rosovsky.

And we made it perfectly clear. We weren't talking about a dormitory, or even a library. How much for the whole crate of ripe bananas?

"I would consider it for one year's income of the United States [about $1.1 trillion]," Rosovsky says.

(Note to readers: Rosovsky was joking. He will never sell the name "no matter what, no matter what is offered." Note to Bill Gates, the Harvard-educated six billion dollar man: Don't get your hopes up.)

Let's be real, though. With, say, $500 billion added to its coffers, Harvard would not have much trouble beefing up that History Department. And for those who complain about socio-economic diversity: tuition and fees would be a thing of the past.

All right, Dean Jewett, how much would it take?

"It's a big number," Jewett says. "I think you'll know it when you hear it."