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Bloomberg Donates $150 Million for New Center for Cities

Michael R. Bloomberg's philanthropic organization plans to donate $150 million to fund a center at the University committed to studying urban issues.
Michael R. Bloomberg's philanthropic organization plans to donate $150 million to fund a center at the University committed to studying urban issues. By Zorigoo Tugsbayar
By Jasper G. Goodman and Kelsey J. Griffin, Crimson Staff Writers

Bloomberg Philanthropies will donate $150 million to fund a new Harvard-wide Bloomberg Center for Cities and endow 10 new chair positions for faculty working on city-related issues.

The gift is the second major donation Bloomberg Philanthropies — the philanthropic organization run by former New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg — has given to Harvard in the last decade. Bloomberg, a graduate of Harvard Business School, previously funded the creation of the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative, which provides training to mayors across the country.

The new center, which Harvard announced in a press release Tuesday, will provide additional resources and “custom programming” for newly elected mayors and city hall officials. It also plans to offer postgraduate city hall fellowships and conduct research on city governance.

“Building on our partnership with Harvard, this new investment will help more city leaders learn from one another and get even more big things done locally,” Bloomberg said in the press release.

The Bloomberg City Leadership Initiative, which is housed jointly at the Harvard Kennedy School and Harvard Business School, has hosted more than 400 mayors and 1,300 city officials from nearly 500 cities worldwide since its launch in 2017. Bloomberg endowed the program with $32 million in 2016.

When Bloomberg made his brief but expensive bid for the Democratic nomination for president in 2020, at least 23 mayors who participated in the program endorsed his candidacy.

“The prospect of helping to bring about more effective leadership through collaboration and innovation is as exciting as it is inspiring,” University President Lawrence S. Bacow said in the press release. “We look forward to seeing the resources, tools, and support provided by the Center put to good use in city halls around the world.”

The program will be run out of the Kennedy School, Bacow said at a faculty meeting Tuesday.

Harvard took in more than $478 million in current-use donations from alumni and philanthropic organizations in Fiscal Year 2020, representing 9 percent of the University’s operating revenues. The University accepted substantial donations from several major philanthropic organizations in the fiscal year, including more than $35 million from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The Harvard donation is one of a slew of programs Bloomberg has sponsored across the country aimed at supporting city leaders, including partnerships with the Aspen Institute and Johns Hopkins University.

“This is a major new investment in the people who have enormous and unique powers to attack society’s biggest challenges: mayors,” Bloomberg said in the announcement. “The pandemic has driven home just how important mayors are to the everyday lives of billions of people.”

—Staff writer Kelsey J. Griffin can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @kelseyjgriffin.

—Staff writer Jasper G. Goodman can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @Jasper_Goodman.

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