Kennedy School Prepares for Public Campaign Launch Celebration

UPDATED: May 14, 2014, at 1:02 a.m.

Nearly eight months after Harvard announced the public launch of its unprecedented $6.5 billion capital campaign, the Kennedy School of Government is preparing to launch its $500 million fundraising drive in a two-day celebration beginning Thursday.

The campaign goal represents more than seven percent of the University’s overall mission, but is only half the size of the $1 billion goal set forth by the Harvard Business School in April.

Although specific details of the campaign’s “quiet” phase—a period of gauging alumni interest and targeting specific donors that began in June 2011—will be announced Friday morning, Kennedy School Dean David T. Ellwood ’75 confirmed in an interview in March that the campaign has already passed its halfway mark.


The Kennedy School hopes to channel its campaign funds into recruitment and financial aid, investing in new educational technologies, research focused on more “real-world applications,” and upgrading facilities, according to Kennedy School administrators.

Of these goals, Ellwood said, the Kennedy School will prioritize “attracting the best” with increased financial aid and recruitment.

“We want to get the very best people in the world engaged in and working on public issues,” Ellwood said. “In order to attract students to come here we have to make it financially worthwhile, and in order for them to go off and follow their dreams, as opposed to trying to take a job because they have to pay off some loans.”

To accomplish its capital campaign goal of improving financial aid, the Kennedy School will continue to rely on outside donations, many of which come from people unaffiliated with the Kennedy School.

“[Our donors] very much care about our mission, or their mission, and sometimes we say that people primarily give because they care about making the world a better place,” said Iris Bohnet, academic dean of the Kennedy School. “They’re drawn to the Kennedy School not so much because they’re alumni, but because they care about development, or the environment, or gender equality, or whatever it might be.”

Many donors plan to attend the launch event on Thursday and Friday, named IDEASpHERE, in which over 100 Kennedy School professors, administrators, alumni, and prominent world leaders will give talks and lead seminars.

Felipe Calderón, the former president of Mexico, and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the current president of Liberia, will give keynote addresses on Thursday. Both speakers are alumni of the University. Speakers for Friday include Lawrence H. Summers, former president of Harvard University.

Ellwood expressed excitement for the opportunity to showcase some of the Kennedy School’s talent at this week’s event.

"IDEASpHERE is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the many powerful ideas that are making a significant difference in the world as a result of the committed work of our faculty, scholars, alumni and students,” Ellwood said in an email. “I can't think of a better way to launch the campaign for Harvard Kennedy School."

—Staff writer Forrest K. Lewis can be reached at


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