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Garber Met with Alumni and Donors in London, Miami Over Spring Break

Harvard University President Alan Garber visited Cambridge University during a spring break trip to the United Kingdom.
Harvard University President Alan Garber visited Cambridge University during a spring break trip to the United Kingdom. By Courtesy of Stillvision.co.uk
By Cam E. Kettles, Crimson Staff Writer

Interim Harvard President Alan M. Garber ’76 met with hundreds of alumni in London and Florida last week in his first international trip as president as part of ongoing efforts to project University stability and mend donor relationships.

Garber spoke to around 200 alumni in London before jetting down to Miami — home to longtime major Harvard donor Kenneth C. Griffin ’89, who halted donations to the University earlier this year.

As interim president and former long-time provost, Garber is a natural candidate to be Harvard’s 31st president. His spring break visit to London marks the beginning of a monthslong aptitude test for Harvard’s top job as the school’s chief fundraiser and the international face of the University.

Harvard presidents typically leverage spring break to meet with alumni and donors abroad, but Garber’s trip also comes at a critical time for the University.

The United Kingdom has long topped the list of Harvard’s largest sources of foreign funding and senior administrators are attempting to reverse the fall donor exodus, and end a back-and-forth with Congress over outstanding subpoenas of private University documents.

At the off-the-record event co-hosted by the Harvard Club of the United Kingdom and the Harvard Alumni Association, Garber spoke directly to alumni and answered questions with Vivian Y. Hunt ’89, a member of the Board of Overseers — the University’s second-highest governing body.

“It was a great pleasure to meet with our alumni in London and to travel to the University of Cambridge on my first presidential visit outside of the United States,” Garber said in a statement.

“Acknowledging our historical roots and celebrating our ongoing connections underscored for me the strength of our worldwide community,” he added.

The London trip replaced former Harvard President Claudine Gay’s planned trip to Asia, which was canceled after her sudden resignation on Jan. 2.

Harvard Club of the United Kingdom President Victoria W. K. Leung ’91 wrote in a statement to The Crimson that Garber’s visit convinced her that he is “a much-needed stabilising influence” at the University.

Leung said Garber spoke about his presidential task forces to address antisemitism and Islamophobia and discussed the University’s ongoing consideration of institutional neutrality, acknowledging that “recent events have exposed underlying differences and problems.”

“The UK community felt valued. I heard excellent feedback on President Garber’s and Dame Vivian’s words,” she wrote. “I think many were pleasantly surprised by the candour.”

Garber also visited the University of Cambridge, meeting with Vice Chancellor Deborah A. Prentice and Harvard students studying at the university.

“I was delighted to welcome Professor Garber and the Harvard team to Cambridge,” Prentice wrote in a statement to The Crimson. “It was a wonderful opportunity to catch up with colleagues, discuss some of the great work going on in our institutions, and exchange ideas on a wide range of topics.”

As the Harvard Corporation looks to pick the University’s next president, Garber’s ability to calm tensions and permanently remain in the role is being tested.

“My take on President Garber’s words is that he is acting like he will be in the role for enough time to make progress on improving the current situation,” Leung wrote.

After leaving the United Kingdom, Leung said Garber and members of the HAA flew to Miami to meet privately with alumni and donors. The Harvard Club of Miami did not publicize Garber’s visit.

According to a University spokesperson, Garber met with Florida alumni and donors both in small groups and individually.

While it is unclear who Garber met with, Miami is notably home to Griffin, who announced in January he would suspend donations to the University over its response to antisemitism on campus — less than one year after he donated $300 million to the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.

Griffin, who is the namesake for both the University’s graduate school and financial aid office, has not spoken publicly on Harvard’s senior leadership since financially distancing himself from the University.

A Harvard spokesperson declined to comment on whether Garber met with Griffin.

—Staff writer Cam E. Kettles can be reached at cam.kettles@thecrimson.com. Follow her on X @cam_kettles or on Threads @camkettles.

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