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Capital Campaign Quietly Underway

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

By Julie M. Zauzmer, Crimson Staff Writer

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.


A capital campaign comes with an overarching theme, specific projects that it aims to finance, and a set monetary target—all announced in glossy promotional materials.

But before that public program is ever rolled out, over a third of the money has already been gathered through hushed solicitation of major contributions, which in development lingo is a period known as the “quiet phase.”

This year, Harvard entered that phase, kick-starting the enormous initiative with little fanfare.

Vice President for Alumni Affairs and Development Tamara E. Rogers ’74 said that Harvard would set a “very ambitious goal” for the campaign.

Administrators say that a fundraising goal has not been determined yet, but according to Steven Oliveira, dean for development and alumni relations at Harvard Law School, the total will likely top $4 billion.

“Odds are that this will be the largest campaign in higher education,” Oliveira said, adding that Harvard’s campaign will likely collect a sum “in the $4 billion range ... and very possibly beyond that.”

Rogers has said that schools gather as much as 40 percent of the campaign total during the quiet phase, which according to Oliveira will last for more than two years and will be followed by a five-year public campaign. That timeline puts the University on track to publicly launch the campaign around 2013 and to wrap up the fundraising drive around 2018.

Remarking on the last campaign—which was the first time the entire University pulled together instead of the individual campaigns each school had hosted in the past—Rogers indicated that one in this decade would again be a University-wide effort.

“Since we truly want to do the absolute best research, recruit the absolute best students, and give them the absolute best experience, we have to think University-wide for the next campaign. All of the schools are participating in the planning process,” Rogers said in an emailed statement.


The books had barely closed on Harvard’s last capital campaign—which, at its conclusion in 1999, was the most lucrative ever in the history of higher education—when the University began considering its next go-round, an effort that would be aborted and stalled on multiple occasions.

In 2002, Hyman said that the University was mulling strategies for a potential campaign. By 2004, The Crimson reported that the campaign was set to start that year. Soon, the initial fundraising—the quiet phase—was underway.

But in 2005, then-University President Lawrence H. Summers came under fire from the faculty for remarks deemed offensive to women. Amidst the scrutiny, the campaign’s public launch was pushed back.

After Summers’ ignominious resignation, the campaign was put off until a new president could take office. But after Faust’s appointment, a deep recession struck. Again, Harvard’s first campaign of the 21st century failed to launch.

Now, with Faust ensconced in Massachusetts Hall and donors’ wallets fattening as the economy recuperates, the long-awaited campaign has at last quietly taken off.

—Tara W. Merrigan and Zoe A. Y. Weinberg contributed to the reporting of this article.

—Staff writer Julie M. Zauzmer can be reached at

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