Capital Campaign Quietly Underway

After more than a decade, Harvard has embarked on a major fundraising effort

It looks like it’s been an iconic part of the Harvard skyline forever, but just over ten years ago, the distinctive Gothic tower that crowns Memorial Hall was missing.

Now featured on countless postcards sold in Harvard Sq., until 1999 the tower was a shell of its former self, having been razed by a fire in 1956. For over 40 years, Memorial Hall went without its most grandiose feature.

In 1999, when Harvard stood on the verge of wrapping up a record-breaking capital campaign—a massive six-year-long fundraising effort that collected over $2.6 billion for the University—administrators finally took steps toward restoring the structure.

That tower—the red-brick structure that beckons to posing tourists and prospective students—now stands as a symbol of the major projects and changes that can be ushered in by a concentrated University fundraising effort, known as a capital campaign.

The University’s last such campaign, in addition to the eye-catching renovation of Memorial Hall, also paid for the new computer science building Maxwell Dworkin, the transformation of the Freshman Union into the Barker Center, and a large expansion of undergraduate financial aid.


Now, after a series of false starts and delays, Harvard has quietly begun a new capital campaign, which is expected to raise an even larger sum and to reshape the face of the University once again. This campaign is set to alter the landscape of Harvard by funding renovations to the twelve undergraduate Houses and by bankrolling the University’s long-awaited expansion in Allston.


With a new campaign underway, the University is determining the major items that will be funded by the campaign’s proceeds.

The dean of each school in the University has been asked to submit a memo outlining the projects in his or her school that could benefit from campaign funding. Faust and her advisors will then cull suggestions from these memos in order to create the final list of beneficiary projects.

Several administrators have said that House renewal, a potentially sweeping renovation project to the twelve undergraduate Houses that will start with major updates to Old Quincy next year, will be the foremost priority of the entire campaign.

Construction in Allston will also be a focus of the upcoming campaign, according to many top administrators.

It remains unclear what will be built in Allston, where the University originally planned to put a neighborhood of student housing and even broke ground on a state-of-the-art science complex—all of which was scrapped, at least temporarily, when the financial crisis gutted the University’s endowment, a reversal that angered residents and has soured town-gown relations for the foreseeable future.

But administrators have made assurances that the capital campaign, which was also postponed due to the dismal economy, will mark the end of the standstill in building across the Charles River brought on by the recession.

Provost Steven E. Hyman said that Allson construction will “absolutely” be a priority in the upcoming campaign, adding “I don’t think we have much choice at this point.”

“It certainly will be a part of the campaign, and our aspirations are tied to Allston,” Faust said.


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