A 72, year-old self made million hire who rose from a blue collar background in Chebea to head one of the nation's largest privately owned companies has donated $20 million to the Harvard Medical School.
The gift, from New York resident and Harvard Business School graduate Warren Alpert, is the largest single donation in the Medical School's 200-year history. It also marks one of the largest contributions ever from a Business School alumnus to another division of the University.
The Medical School, which announced the gift yesterday, will name its recently completed 200 Longwood Ave. research building-which houses its Center for Blood Research and its departments of genetics, neurobiology and pathology-for Alpert.
The outspoken and remarkably accessible executive is founder and chair of the Warren Companies and Warren Equities. Inc., a pair of food and petroleum conglomerates with annual revenues of $600 milion.
Alpert a member of the Medical School's Board of Fellows and former president of the Harvard Business School Club of New York has a personal net worth estimated at $200 milion.
"We have only begun what I think should be done, which is spread the name of the Harvard Medical School to the rest of the world." Alpert said in a telephone interview yesterday. "Why medicine? Because it's vital and we're all going to die. The real question is when, not whether."
Alpert said he believes the primary goal of medical research should be to extend and enhance lives.
The key to everything seems to be one more day of good health," he said "The area that should be of great interest to medicine, If it could come up with cures. Research is vital but up cures are what we need every day."
Alpert's donation comes just as Harvard to gearing up for an unprecedented $2 billion university-wide capital campaign.
Some observes have said the success of that campaign will depend in part on whether the Business School's many wealthy alumni--like Alpert--are willing and encouraged to make significant contributions to other areas of the university.
In an interview with The Crimson Last month, Business School Dean John H. McArthur said he tries to link his school's alumni with programs throughout Harvard that may interest them.
"I try to understand what they want to do," said McArthur, adding that he introduced Alpert to Medical School Dean Daniel C. Tosteaon '44 several years ago. "You can't talk peopled into things in life, I don't think but you can listen hard and try and understand what would give them some pleasure."
But Alpert, a former 20-year member of the Business School's board of associates, differed.
"He was not enamored by the thought that he should [steer alumni donors to other divisions of the University] because he thought it would come out of the business School's contributors," Alpert said. "But [President Neil L. Rudenstine] was very persuasive and [the Business School is] now sharing with the other schools."
Alpert said such cooperation represents a necessary change from the University's past policies -- politics he said once made sense but increasingly have contributed to an uneven distribution of wealth among the schools.