John Harvard would be surprised that nearly four centuries after his generous gift, Harvard University has 21,000 students across 12 schools. He would be shocked at the $30.7 billion endowment. He would not be able to grasp the cutting-edge research, innovation, and learning happening both in Cambridge and across the river. He could not have known then what Harvard is now, much as we do not know now what Harvard will be in another 400 years.
The launch of the public phase of the capital campaign is an opportunity to reflect on the big questions that face Harvard. What should residential education look like as online education becomes more popular? How do we renew our Houses, both physically and culturally? How do we make a Harvard education available to every student who has earned admission? These questions and many others will drive our institution for the foreseeable future. Harvard needs our support, and it needs it now. The Harvard Campaign is an ambitious undertaking that is both urgent and inspiring.
The Harvard Campaign is urgent because the higher education landscape is shifting faster than ever. Nearly all of our peer schools have completed or announced a capital campaign since our last effort ended in 1999. This campaign was delayed by the financial crisis in 2008, and it is now overdue. The delay had ramifications: Today, the Houses are in desperate need of renewal and Harvard's vision for Allston has been on pause for too long. At the same time, federal budget pressures are eating away at the 16 percent of our operating budget that comes from federal research money. Harvard cannot merely maintain the status quo. The best students and teachers in the world are here, but our competition would pull them away given the chance. Harvard has to keep moving forward to stay ahead.
But this campaign is also about new initiatives and a vision for One Harvard. The campaign will support each of Harvard’s schools, but it will also bring Harvard together. Whether it is through common spaces like the recently announced campus center or through new support for interdisciplinary, collaborative work, the capital campaign will support a more united Harvard. The goals for the campaign are big ideas: “advancing the power of integrated knowledge,” “advancing innovation and hands-on discovery,” and “advancing new approaches to learning and teaching,” just to name a few. The campaign’s aspirations challenge Harvard to evolve into a university prepared to thrive in a changing world.
It is up to all of us—students, faculty, staff, and alumni—to support Harvard. Those who can should give and give generously. Those of us who are students should give, even if the donation is small. Giving to Harvard means that a donation today will still be making a meaningful change in someone’s life in 100 years. It is an investment in transforming talented students into extraordinary people.
The goal of the capital campaign is to raise $6.5 billion. We hope that by the end of the campaign, Harvard will have not only exceeded its goals but also will have developed as an institution. We hope that we will be further along in answering the big questions about the future of education and the role of a place like Harvard in a digital and interconnected world. This campaign is as much about institutional introspection as fundraising success.
University President Drew G. Faust said it best:
“May Harvard be as wise as it is smart,
as restless as it is proud,
as bold as it is thoughtful,
as new as it is old,
as good as it is great.”