Younger Crop of Donors Fueling Capital Campaign, Supporters Say

UPDATED: April 25, 2014 at 11:18 a.m.

Harvard has raised more than $900 million since the public launch of the University’s capital campaign last September, and longtime supporters credit much of the progress to a new generation of alumni donors.

They have also noted that priorities such as financial aid have galvanized donors across a wide range of classes and are responsible for much of the campaign’s success so far.

“There is always a positive response to financial aid endowment, both from people who went to Harvard on scholarship and have become very successful, and from other people who just feel that the cost of education is so enormous and the debt level is so big,” said Peter L. Malkin ’55, a New York real estate mogul and longtime donor to the University.


Ten years after the announcement of the Harvard Financial Aid Initiative, which now ensures that students with family incomes below $65,000 do not pay any tuition or fees, donors insist that keeping the Admissions Office’s coffers full remains a top priority.

“That’s a huge part of what makes Harvard specialhow generous it can be,” John F. Savarese ’77, a Law School lecturer who has in the past helped lead fundraising efforts at the professional school, said in an interview this week. “I think that’s something that people care passionately about and want very much to support.”

So far, University leaders have capitalized on the energy around financial aid. In February, Kenneth C. Griffin ’89 gave $150 million to the University, directing $125 million of that money to undergraduate financial aid. The gift was the largest in the history of Harvard College and the largest publicly disclosed gift in the history of the University.

And Griffin, at 45 years old, exemplifies another trend of the campaign. Along with supporters like William A. Ackman ’88 and Karen H. Ackman, an alumna of the Graduate School of Design—who this month gave $17 million to fund human behavioral research—Griffin highlights what donors say is a younger base of support for this fundraising drive.

“Many people in my generation have done some good lifting during our period, and this is the time for Harvard to reach out to the next generation.... These people in their 40s and 50s have come [of age],” said Peter J. Solomon ’60, who has served on the University’s Board of Overseers and Committee on University Resources.

“[Harvard] may have gotten somewhat lucky because so much money has been made in the last 15 to 20 the younger classes,” Solomon added.

Many of the donors who fueled the University’s last capital campaign—a drive that was led by then-President Neil L. Rudenstine and concluded in 1999 after raising $2.6 billion—have either retired or are reaching retirement age.

“People my age don’t work, and we have some resources, but we’re beyond our peak earning years,” said David B. Watts ’55, a donor who has endowed numerous scholarships at the College. Watts added that, as compensation in some industries has trended upwards, younger alumni may be able to be even more generous than their predecessors.

“They’ll out earn us,” Watts said.

—Staff writer Matthew Q. Clarida can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @mattclarida.

—Staff writer Amna H. Hashmi can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @amna_hashmi.


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