Capital Campaign Said To Be Delayed

Harvard fundraisers have pushed back the public launch of the University’s multi-billion-dollar capital campaign, according to a major alumni donor who has spoken to members of the Harvard Corporation about the delay.

A Harvard official close to the campaign’s planning process confirmed yesterday that the launch would likely occur later than top administrators had originally hoped.

No date for the public launch of the campaign has ever been announced, but within the University’s development office, the schedule has been pushed back at least six months and possibly as much as two years, said the donor, who agreed to an interview on the condition of anonymity to maintain his relationship with the Corporation, Harvard’s top governing board.

But Donella M. Rapier, vice president for alumni affairs and development, said those claims were untrue.

“It would be incorrect to say that the public launch of the capital campaign has been pushed back,” Rapier wrote in an e-mail last night.


The University last year entered the “quiet phase” of what is likely to be the largest capital campaign in higher education, soliciting major donations to serve as the bedrock of that effort. The public launch of the campaign—and the announcement of its goal—will come in the next several years.

“The date depends on the pace of academic planning as well as the pace of new commitments by lead donors to the nucleus fund of the campaign,” Rapier wrote last night. “Until we get further along in those two efforts, we are unable to set a date.”

But while Rapier has always described the launch date as flexible, her public statements appear to indicate a delay in the campaign’s schedule.

In February 2004, Rapier said she expected to publicly launch the campaign in two to three years. In an e-mail this weekend, 16 months later, Rapier wrote, “We continue to be on track for an expected public launch within the next two to three years.”

The apparent delay comes in the wake of turmoil over the leadership of University President Lawrence H. Summers, who lost a no-confidence vote of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences in March.

The alumni donor said that, in conversations with Corporation members, they did not attribute the delay explicitly to the Summers controversy. But they said the decision to push back the campaign’s launch was made since January, when the controversy first ignited.

At a meeting with members of the Faculty Council on April 25, two members of the Corporation, James R. Houghton ’58 and Hanna H. Gray, spoke generally of slowing the pace of major Harvard initiatives during a period of “convalescence” at the University, according to two professors in attendance.

In an interview last week, Summers said the campaign’s schedule had not been delayed. “I think we’ve been saying for the last year or so that we expect it to begin in the next several years,” he said. “That continues to be the case.”

Summers said, and Rapier confirmed, that giving to the University is ahead of where it was at the same time last fiscal year.

“It obviously reflects very well in the confidence people feel in the deans of the different schools,” he said.

—Staff writer Zachary M. Seward can be reached at