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A Swiss-born entrepreneur has given $25 million to the Ph.D. program at Harvard Business School (HBS), marking the largest single donation toward business doctoral education ever.
The gift provides a significant boost to the HBS capital campaign, which aims to raise $500 million by the end of next year.
The donor, Hansjoerg Wyss, who earned a master’s degree from HBS in 1965, is chief executive of Synthes, Inc., a leading manufacturer of orthopedic medical devices.
Wyss’ gift will go in part toward expanding research opportunities and financial aid for Harvard’s 100-student business doctoral program.
The donation will also fund facilities improvements at the doctoral program’s current home on North Harvard Street, Sherman Hall, which will be renamed Wyss House.
But Wyss’ donation will wield an impact well beyond the Business School’s Allston campus, said Janice McCormick, executive director of the doctoral program.
“This is an outward-looking gift as opposed to just being Harvard-focused,” McCormick said. She noted that Harvard’s doctoral program trains Ph.D.’s who go on to teach at the top business schools worldwide. “So it’s a gift to all the other schools too,” McCormick said.
In a statement yesterday, University President Lawrence H. Summers said Wyss’ gift “is central to Harvard University’s commitment to building a pipeline of faculty who will educate new generations of students around the world.”
McCormick said the portion of the gift set aside for student aid will help ease the financial hardships faced by HBS doctoral candidates.
Students seeking a Ph.D from HBS commit to five years in the program. And their post-graduation earnings prospects in the academic world are often dimmer than those of master’s of business administration (MBA) students who are headed to the private sector.
“Business school professors are very wealthy by academic standards but not paid well by corporate standards,” said Shosana R. Dobrow ’97, a Currier House residential tutor and fifth-year doctoral candidate in organizational behavior. “Our MBA counterparts will out-earn us tremendously,”
Currently, HBS awards all its doctoral candidates a $27,000 annual stipend for living expenses—on top of free tuition and health care—regardless of need. And Dobrow said that HBS doctoral candidates face fewer term-time teaching responsibilities than grad students in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS).
Dobrow, who has criss-crossed the country studying young musicians, said she has incurred “very minimal out-of-pocket expenses” in her research. But she said that doctoral candidates sometimes do have to pitch in for their own travel to academic conferences.
Wyss’ $25 million gift is among the largest that the Business School has received in its 96-year history. Weather Channel founder Frank Batten donated $32 million to the school last spring. His gift came on the heels of a $25 million donation from Arthur Rock, the Silicon Valley venture capitalist who helped launch Intel and Apple Computer.
Wyss’ donation—like Batten’s and Rock’s—will be funneled into the school’s endowment fund, which already tops $1.4 billion—making it the second largest among the University’s nine schools, trailing only FAS.
HBS spends only a portion of the interest on its endowment funds each year—preserving the remainder to insulate the school against potential future economic downturns, said David Lampe, the school’s communications director.
Consequently the doctoral program will be able to spend only a fraction of Wyss’ gift in the coming year.
The school runs an annual operating budget of approximately $300 million, Lampe said.
—Staff writer Daniel J. Hemel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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