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Houghtons Promote Women's Leadership

By Kelly M. Yamanouchi

Undergraduate exposure to successful women will be greatly enhanced through the $1.25 million gift from two Harvard graduates that establishes an endowment fund for the women's initiative project.

Maisie K. Houghton '62 and James R. Houghton '58, who is also a member of the Harvard Corporation, made the gift to the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. Dean of the College Harry R. Lewis '68 will administer the endowment fund.

The new women's initiative project will enhance the community of women on campus. It will be developed through the Houghton gift, according to Karen E. Avery '87, assistant dean of the College.

The Houghtons supported the cause of enhancing undergraduate life and began discussing the endowment fund recently.

"This year we really started talking about different thoughts and what kind of contribution we could make," Maisie Houghton said.

"For us, our undergraduate life was the most exciting and meaningful part of our education--people we met," she added. "We're not scholars, we're not academics, so it was Harvard life that was most important to us, so that's what we're interested in contributing to."

James Houghton is currently the chair of Corning Inc., and Maisie Houghton has long been involved in women's issues. She established a women's center in Corning, N.Y., and ran workshops in New York City on women and money, according to the Harvard Gazette.

Maisie Houghton described the span of the couple's professional lives as "the lifespan of the women's movement."

"It's really important to keep that conversation going at Harvard," she said. "It's really helpful for undergraduates to have a chance to be with older women who will take the time to talk to Harvard undergraduates, because we all know that there's a lot of things going on at Harvard, but it's great to have a chance to connect to someone who makes that life seem exciting and possible."

Maisie Houghton described the plans for the endowment fund and the women's initiative project as "fluid."

"Hopefully, the idea is to enhance undergraduate life and that can be done in many different ways.... It's really not written in stone."

Avery will be coordinating the project in cooperation with a group of female undergraduates.

"Essentially the idea [of the women's initiative project] first started about a year ago when a group of undergraduate women started meeting with the dean," said Avery, referring to Lewis. "Part of my new role is to establish the women's initiative project."

Undergraduate Council President Lamelle D. Rawlins '99--the first woman to head the student government--is a member of the committee that is meeting with Avery.

"I think the Houghton gift is going to have a huge impact on the lives of all undergraduates, particularly women," Rawlins said. "This type of gift exemplifies the type of forward thinking about improving women's experiences at Harvard that we really need, and I think it's going to make a big difference."

Avery listed several programs within the project, including bringing in scholars and women from various fields for close interaction with undergraduates, and showcasing strong women in the professional world.

Some projects already are underway, Avery said.

"There was a luncheon a couple of months ago for a visiting scholar," Avery said. "The women's initiative project will benefit similar types of events."

Avery described the gift as an important contribution to undergraduate life.

"We really think that it's a very positive step that Harvard is taking to enhance the experience of women undergraduates," Avery added. "This is a really wonderful opportunity and this endowment is just fabulous. We are so excited about getting this project up and running and I'm excited to be a part of it all.

Maisie Houghton described the span of the couple's professional lives as "the lifespan of the women's movement."

"It's really important to keep that conversation going at Harvard," she said. "It's really helpful for undergraduates to have a chance to be with older women who will take the time to talk to Harvard undergraduates, because we all know that there's a lot of things going on at Harvard, but it's great to have a chance to connect to someone who makes that life seem exciting and possible."

Maisie Houghton described the plans for the endowment fund and the women's initiative project as "fluid."

"Hopefully, the idea is to enhance undergraduate life and that can be done in many different ways.... It's really not written in stone."

Avery will be coordinating the project in cooperation with a group of female undergraduates.

"Essentially the idea [of the women's initiative project] first started about a year ago when a group of undergraduate women started meeting with the dean," said Avery, referring to Lewis. "Part of my new role is to establish the women's initiative project."

Undergraduate Council President Lamelle D. Rawlins '99--the first woman to head the student government--is a member of the committee that is meeting with Avery.

"I think the Houghton gift is going to have a huge impact on the lives of all undergraduates, particularly women," Rawlins said. "This type of gift exemplifies the type of forward thinking about improving women's experiences at Harvard that we really need, and I think it's going to make a big difference."

Avery listed several programs within the project, including bringing in scholars and women from various fields for close interaction with undergraduates, and showcasing strong women in the professional world.

Some projects already are underway, Avery said.

"There was a luncheon a couple of months ago for a visiting scholar," Avery said. "The women's initiative project will benefit similar types of events."

Avery described the gift as an important contribution to undergraduate life.

"We really think that it's a very positive step that Harvard is taking to enhance the experience of women undergraduates," Avery added. "This is a really wonderful opportunity and this endowment is just fabulous. We are so excited about getting this project up and running and I'm excited to be a part of it all.

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