The Coming Campaign

House renewal under way: rendering of the “light court” beside Leverett House’s dining hall
Glenn Hutchins

Harvard’s capital campaign—long in planning, long hinted about—is under way. When the goal and “quiet phase” fundraising results are publicly unveiled, presumably next autumn, they will mark the first institution-wide capital drive since the $2.65-billion University Campaign concluded on December 31, 1999—eons ago, in development terms. A campaign matters both for the resources it secures and for what it tells constituents about this still decentralized University’s highest priorities for renewal and the future pursuit of knowledge and education.

Evidence of the preannouncement fundraising appears in Harvard’s annual financial report, published in early November (see “Sober Finances”). In fiscal year 2012, ended last June 30, gifts received (including current-use gifts, capital sums for endowment, and corporate and foundation research grants) totaled $650 million, up slightly from $639 million in the prior year. But pledges rose sharply, to $909 million in fiscal 2012 from $758 million and $772 million in the two prior years, respectively—the leading indicator of future gift income, and a sign that major commitments are being made toward the campaign’s nucleus fund.

In a December 3 interview with the Harvard Gazette, President Drew Faust hinted at the retrospective and prospective nature of a fundraising drive now, observing that a “campaign can strengthen our financial foundations and at the same time enable some important new investments and initiatives.” Funding financial aid, renovating buildings, and resuming work on the Allston science center might fit the former category; ideas naturally abound for the latter. Several significant gifts already delineate some of these priorities—and the scale of philanthropy involved in a twenty-first-century campaign:

  • The $40-million initiative on learning and teaching created by Rita E. Hauser, L ’58, and Gustave M. Hauser, J.D. ’53, announced just before Harvard’s 375th-anniversary celebration in October 2011. (For background information, see
  • The $30-million gift from Joseph J. O’Donnell ’67, M.B.A. ’71, and his wife, Katherine A. O’Donnell, disclosed last March, for uses as yet unannounced. Joe O’Donnell was named a fellow of the Harvard Corporation in mid 2011, and serves as co-chair of its joint committee on alumni affairs and development. He is also one of four campaign leaders named to date. (See
  • The Dr. James Si-Cheng Chao and Family Foundation’s $40-million, mid-October gift to fund replacement of a building on the Harvard Business School (HBS) campus and fellowships for students of Chinese heritage. (See
  • The $30-million gift to the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) from the Hutchins Family Foundation, endowed by Glenn H. Hutchins ’77, J.D.-M.B.A. ’83. Part of the gift, announced in late October, initiates a matching fund to support the first steps in renewing the undergraduate Houses, FAS’s principal announced capital-campaign priority and Harvard’s largest single construction investment. Hutchins, another of the four campaign leaders, co-chairs the FAS component of the fund drive with Carl Martignetti ’81, M.B.A. ’85. (See House renewal, already begun at Old Quincy, advanced in early December with the release of plans for work on Leverett’s McKinlock Hall, to begin this coming June.

The mixture of uses (a pedagogical program, building plans, scholarships, and other goals), recipients (the University overall, HBS, FAS), and donor affiliations (domestic and international, with degrees from the College, HBS, and Harvard Law School) all suggest emerging aims and fundraisers’ hopes.

The quiet phase of a capital campaign is just that: a period for completing plans and testing potential donors’ receptiveness to supporting the institution’s goals. Given modern multibillion-dollar fund drives—like those recently completed by Stanford and Yale, and well under way at Columbia, Cornell, and Penn—this initial work with alumni and other friends is crucial to securing “leadership” gifts and pledges and anchoring the multiyear, public drive. Though Harvard is still months away from any public announcement, likely objectives for the University include:

Learning and teaching. The Harvard Initiative on Learning and Teaching, launched with the Hauser gift, is an area of further emphasis, as is online learning: the University’s edX venture with MIT, launched last May, to which each partner committed $30 million, is explicitly predicated on philanthropic and other support.

Arts. President Drew Faust’s arts task force announced ambitious plans for undergraduate art-making, graduate programs, and new facilities—in December 2008, at the height of the financial crisis. Implementation has largely been deferred, but the recommendations lend themselves to campaign funding; a University Committee on the Arts has worked to refine goals.

Financial aid. Student support is a perennial wish—now more than ever. FAS, for example, extended its undergraduate aid program in December 2007 (again, ahead of the financial crisis), and as of fiscal 2011 reported a decline in net tuition and fee income (its largest source of unrestricted revenue) because of aid spending that has increased beyond endowed funds. The recession strained family incomes, requiring still more financial aid. Similar needs exist across the graduate and professional schools.

Engineering and applied sciences. Within FAS, the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences has outlined plans to use reserves and raise new funds to expand its faculty, enlarge graduate-student enrollment, accommodate rising undergraduate interest, and invest in teaching and research facilities and equipment.

Allston. The University’s recent Allston planning submission to the Boston Redevelopment Authority (see “Economic Realities in Allston”) outlines, among other elements, investments in athletics and HBS buildings, new and renovated, and continuing work on other facilities, including a major science laboratory where construction was halted in 2010 for financial reasons.

Many other elements of a campaign—faculty positions, international ambitions, research ventures in fields from medicine to energy and the environment, and individual school programs—remain to be fleshed out in coming months. Harvard’s ambitions are significant, and many have had to be deferred, given the long interval since the University Campaign officially launched in 1994. What the recent large gifts make clear, however, is that there are supportive friends who will make substantial commitments of resources and time to fulfill those ambitions, and such work is very much begun.

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