Shovels in the Ground at Tata Hall

Celebrating the start of construction at Harvard Business School's newest building

Edward Bond, CEO of Bond Brothers Construction Co.; William Rawn, founding partner of William Rawn Associates, Architects; Harvard Business School dean Nitin Nohria; Tata Group chairman Ratan Tata; and former HBS dean Jay Light

The name of Ratan Tata, chairman of India's Tata Group, has become a significant one for Harvard: it will adorn the newest building at Harvard Business School (HBS). On Friday, December 2, at the groundbreaking ceremony to mark the start of construction on Tata Hall, Tata confided his reason for making the $50-million gift that made the new building possible: HBS, where he attended the Advanced Management Program for senior executives in 1975, was a significant place for him.

Tata said his 13 weeks in the program became “an inflection point” in his life. “As I look back on my early years” in business, he said, “perhaps the greatest investment was for me to come here.”

Former HBS dean Jay Light recalled the circumstances in which he approached Tata about making the gift: over a light lunch of tuna sandwiches. Tata, he said, listened quietly to his proposal, giving no signs one way or the other. When he finished, Tata gave an understated answer: “I think we could do that. I think we'd like to do that.” Light also lauded Tata for agreeing to make the gift in 2008, when dire financial news dominated the headlines day after day: “Through a terrible time, for the world and his organization, he never wavered.”

Located at the northeast corner of the HBS campus, the seven-story, 161,000-square-foot building is scheduled to open in late 2013. It will contain two additional classrooms, three gathering spaces, and housing for 179 people, creating additional space for the school’s executive education programs. (See an illustration of the building's design.) “We are moving into a new global century in business,” said Nitin Nohria, the school’s current dean; the multinational Tata Group and its gift are emblems of this, as is the presence on the Harvard campus of executives from around the globe who come to study. This gift, Nohria said, will open up this “transformational experience,” including the residential component that is “a vital part of the educational experience,” to more executives.

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