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Tech billionaires, foreign entities, and at least one Democratic presidential candidate number among Harvard’s top donors, according to the Harvard University Report of Giving 2018-2019.
Three donations totalling $431 million topped the donor honor roll.
The largest came from entrepreneur Leonard Blavatnik — a graduate of Harvard Business School — who committed $200 million to Harvard Medical School, the largest gift in its history. The funds are aimed at “solving some of humanity’s most acute biomedical challenges,” per a Medical School webpage dedicated to the gift. In recognition of the gift, the Medical School named its umbrella research institute and a biotech startup lab for Blavatnik.
Hansjörg Wyss — another Business School alumnus — donated $131 million to the eponymous Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering. The gift marked Wyss’s third major donation to the University since 2009.
David E. Goel ’93 and Stacey L. Goel donated $100 million to fund a research and arts performance center that will be part of the University’s new campus in Allston.
An anonymous gift capped off the top tier of donations, which includes gifts totaling more than $100 million.
Asked about the report, Harvard spokesperson Christopher M. Hennessy declined to comment on specific donations.
“Harvard depends on the generosity of alumni and donors who support our mission at all levels, enabling the university to have a lasting impact in areas of teaching, learning, research and innovation,” Hennessy wrote in an emailed statement.
Other big-ticket donations include gifts from both boldface names in the tech world and major philanthropic groups.
The Bill and Melinda Gates foundation donated at least $50 million to fund early childhood development and public health research at the T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the Medical School.
Kenneth C. Griffin ’89 — the founder and CEO of the investment group Citadel — donated $50 million to Harvard this year. Griffin previously made the largest gift in College history, giving $150 million in 2014. Of that gift, $125 million went directly to the College’s financial aid office, which was subsequently re-named in his honor.
The estate of the late David E. Rockefeller, a banker and the grandson of Standard Oil founder John D. Rockefeller, also contributed $50 million, as did the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative and the Morningside Foundation.
Pediatrician and philanthropist Priscilla Chan ’07 and College dropout and Facebook CEO Mark E. Zuckerberg jointly founded the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.
The Morningside Foundation is the family trust of brothers Gerald L. and Ronnie C. Chan, who pledged $350 million to the School of Public Health in 2014.
Lakshmi N. Mittal and his family also donated $25 million to the University last year. In 2017, Mittal announced a $25 million gift to establish an endowed fund for Harvard’s South Asia Institute, which was subsequently renamed for him.
Bloomberg Philanthropies, the philanthropic organization of current presidential candidate and former New York City mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, donated at least $10 million dollars during the period.
The government of the United Arab Emirates was also listed among the donors who gave at least $10 million. In the past, they have funded the Emirates Leadership Institute at the Harvard Kennedy School.
At least one donor on the list has come under fire for initiatives it funds.
The John Templeton Foundation also donated at least $10 million. In the past, the Templeton Foundation has been criticized for funding research that blends religion and science. The Templeton Foundation did not respond to a request for comment on the donation or the criticisms.
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—Staff writer Camille G. Caldera can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @camille_caldera.
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