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John Harvard's Journal

Campaign Cues

A taste of the talk

November-December 2013

Joseph J. O’Donnell

Joseph J. O’Donnell

Photograph by Kris Snibbe/Harvard Public Affairs and Communications

A Worthy Package

Welcome to this important day in Harvard’s history. Over the past decade, I have chosen to spend a great deal of my time traveling from Los Angeles, where I live, to Harvard…about 170 round trips…and I have chosen to spend a great deal of my philanthropy on Harvard as well. I’m in the investment business, and it’s hard to find a better investment than Harvard.

As an undergraduate, I studied English. It fostered in me a continuing love of reading and literature, and over my years of association with Harvard, Anne and I have supported the humanities, as well as many other aspects of the University. I am particularly moved by Drew Faust’s vision of One Harvard, a Harvard in which we cross boundaries in research and teaching, we create and share knowledge, and we have impact across many fields, from literature to the world’s religions to the development of new energy sources to global health and discoveries in neurosciences….

Harvard is a wonderful mixture of traditional values and emerging opportunities, and there is an exciting and growing sense of creativity on this campus. Traditional values, excellence, and innovation—that is a package worthy of our support.

James F. Rothenberg ’68, M.B.A. ’70, member of the Harvard Corporation, University treasurer, and campaign co-chair
Introductory remarks, Memorial Church


Thinking Critically and Creatively

The question used to be who could generate the data—who has the access to the equipment, who has the funds, and so forth. Now in a lot of fields, the data’s there, so I feel like our job as educators is to teach students how to think critically and creatively.

Hopi Hoekstra, professor of organismic and evolutionary biology and of molecular and cellular biology
Faculty panel, “The Future of Knowledge,” Memorial Church


“I’m Not Asking”

I can’t help but think of how for each of us, at an individual level, this is all very personal.…I was a scholarship kid, full financial aid at Harvard and then at Harvard Business School.…Without a scholarship, I might have ended up working at a car wash. Or maybe I’d have owned the car wash—or maybe I’d own a chain of car washes, I’m not sure.

My personal story…began with Fred Glimp. He admitted me…he took a big chance on me, and he was my freshman adviser. I remember like yesterday going in to see him with my study card.…I was going to be a nuclear scientist.…Fred took a look…and said, “I don’t think so.”…For the next three years, Fred checked in on me—he was tremendous, a wonderful mentor.

I thought he was the greatest guy in the world—until about six months before my fifth reunion.…He called me for lunch…and he said to me, “I’d like you to think about something.” And I said, “Sure, what’s that?” And he said, “I’d like you to chair your fifth reunion.” And…I said, “Fred, I’m really busy, I don’t think so.” With that, he leaned over and he looked at me in a way I’d never seen him look before and said, “I’m not asking. I’m calling in my marker.”

Joseph J. O’Donnell ’67, M.B.A. ’71, member of the Harvard Corporation and campaign co-chair
Concluding remarks, Sanders Theatre


Renewal and Reinvention

Almost exactly 45 years ago today I arrived at Harvard as a freshman…and two months later was in just this spot for the famous 1968 “Harvard Beats Yale 29-29” football game. In my first semester I had the amazing opportunity to learn quantum chemistry from a Nobel prizewinner, Bill Lipscomb, and later studied with another Nobelist, physicist Ed Purcell. Harvard was a place where I could explore the most exciting subjects—in and outside of my own field of science—with remarkable faculty, to study modern European history with Charles Maier and to write a paper on Old Church Slavonic for Jay Jasanoff, both young faculty then who are still here today.…

Harvard also taught me to think about teaching and pedagogy, first as a tutor for fellow students through the Bureau of Study Council and later as a founding student member of the Council on Undergraduate Education. That has shaped my subsequent career…to my current position at Pomona College.

My father preceded me at Harvard by more than 30 years as a graduate student in math and a member of the Society of Fellows; my son followed me 35 years later as a College student in economics and government and now as a Business School student. I toast a campaign that will make the extraordinary education we received here available to students this century and next, as Harvard continually renews and reinvents itself.

To Harvard!

David W. Oxtoby ’72, president of the Board of Overseers; president and professor of chemistry, Pomona College
Toast at the “Illuminating Evening” gala, Harvard Stadium

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