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The History of Harvard's Commencement, Explained

Letter from the Editors: Is Harvard Worth It?

By Nicholas P. Fandos, Nikita Kansra, and Samuel Y. Weinstock

Six and a half billion dollars. Is Harvard worth it?

It is the question that every potential donor, no matter how deep his or her pockets, must ask as they mull the Harvard’s record-seeking capital campaign. As University leaders are fond of saying, a capital campaign is much more than just raising money: it is a chance to crystallizein dollars, buildings, or initiativeswhat Harvard is today and what it is becoming. From techniques in the classroom to the University’s physical footprint to the composition of its faculty and student body, the campaign shapes Harvard as much as it reflects its aspirations.

It also represents a turning point in the history of Harvard and its place in an increasingly globalized economy of knowledge and wealth. Harvard, like much of the world, has slowly recovered from a devastating financial crisis. It has endured consequential administrative scandalsin Massachusetts Hall in the first decade of the 21st century, and in University Hall in the second.

This capital campaignits motivations, its methods, and its goalswill show the world how, and how effectively, Harvard’s leaders are addressing the challenges and opportunities that new landscapes of education, labor, research, and finance present.

This special report takes aim at those challenges and opportunities, scrutinizing some of Harvard’s biggest pedagogical and research aspirations, taking stock of its attractiveness in a crowded philanthropy market, and analyzing the financial performance of its $32.7 billion in-house investment arm, where much of the money it stands to raise will be funneled. These stories also peer into the University’s influential fundraising apparatus and carefully coordinated outreach effort, with the understanding that how Harvard makes the pitch says something about what it is selling.

While The Harvard Campaign is far from all that is going on at this large institution, making sense of it is, at the very least, a useful tool in understanding where Harvard stands in 2014. We hope this serves as that resource to you.

Nicholas P. Fandos

Managing Editor

Nikita Kansra

Associate Managing Editor

Samuel Y. Weinstock

President

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Capital CampaignCommencement 2014