In the first major donation of University President Drew G. Faust’s tenure, the family of Brazilian billionaire Jorge P. Lemann ’61 has formally endowed Harvard’s year-old Brazil Studies program, the University announced earlier this month.
Although the provost’s office declined to comment on the exact monetary value of the gift, Vice Provost for International Affairs Jorge I. Dominguez said the funds would provide for the program for many years to come.
“It was like a match made in heaven,” Dominguez said. “The University does have some overall priorities like better funding those schools at Harvard that have been traditionally underfunded.”
In addition to paying to staff the Brazil Studies Program’s office in São Paulo and to provide opportunities for international study and work, the new endowment will fund professors who gear research on topics such as labor inequities and HIV/AIDS toward Brazil.
“That’s the novelty of the program,” Dominguez said. “[Lemann]’s not compelling anybody to work on a topic that they’re not interested in, but if you decide to work in Brazil, he’s making your life a heck of a lot easier.”
Dominguez said the University’s objectives squared perfectly with Lemann’s goal of helping the Brazilian community.
“The donor made it clear that he had this hope of a better Brazil on the public service side, and that one way to advance his own objective was to make it possible for Harvard to advance that goal,” Dominguez said.
Professors from these schools—the Harvard School of Public Health, the Kennedy School of Government, and the Graduate School of Education–will be the primary recipients of funding from the new endowment.
Visiting Professor of History Kenneth R. Maxwell, director of Brazil Studies, cited the specific focus on Brazil as one of the most unconventional aspects of the program.
“Latin American Studies is generally marginalized at most universities, and Brazil tends to be marginalized even within those programs,” Maxwell said, referring to the fact that most students who study Latin America gain proficiency in Spanish but not Portuguese.
Because the program has already functioned for a year—the Brazil Studies Program was launched in May 2006 through the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies, and the São Paulo office opened in July of 2006—Maxwell said that distributing the funds will not pose a major challenge.
“This gift is not something that just dropped down from the sky,” he said. “It’s based on a whole year of practical experience, taking a proven program that’s there on the ground and making it there forever.”
—Staff writer Nathan C. Strauss can be reached at email@example.com.
CORRECTION: Due to an editing error, the original sub-headline for the Oct. 15 news article "Brazil Studies Program Endowed" incorrectly stated that Harvard's Brazil Studies program is 61 years old. In fact, the program is only one year old. The online version has been corrected.
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