Harvard Gets Its Biggest Gift Ever

September 8, 2014       Patrick Sullivan      

Harvard University has received a gift of $350 million, the largest in the university’s history, from The Morningside Foundation in Newton, Mass. The gift will go to the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH), which will be renamed the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, in honor of the late patriarch of the Morningside Foundation’s founding family. A formal announcement is coming later today.

“This extraordinary gift from the Chan family will enable Harvard’s School of Public Health to tackle intractable health problems and to translate rigorous research into action and policy worldwide,” said Harvard University president Drew Faust via a statement. “The Chan family’s generosity sends a signal to the world: this is the public health moment. We are honored by this gift; it will inspire a new generation of public health leaders.”

The gift will be an unrestricted endowment, HSPH dean Julio Frenk told science journalist Maggie Koerth-Baker during a press conference. “This gift will put the school on a very sound financial basis that ensures sustainability,” said Frenk. “The principal will not be spent, it will be there in perpetuity. We will reap the befits of that investment.” Frenk specifically called out more financial aid, a loan forgiveness program and early-stage research funding as possible uses for the gift.

The Morningside Foundation’s gift comes in the midst of a capital campaign to support the HSPH, which began in 2013 and is part of a $6.5 billion capital campaign for the university. The campaign for HSPH had an original goal of $450 million by 2018, and raised $167 million during its quiet phase, which began in 2011. The Morningside Foundation endowed a professorship at the school in 2012. The school celebrated its centennial last year.

Gerald Chan, a spokesperson for the Morningside Foundation and an alumnus of the HSPH, said, “On behalf of my mother and my brothers, I want to express how pleased we are that the legacy of our late father can be honored by this gift to HSPH. He was a generous man who was a staunch supporter of education. He also wanted to support scientific research to alleviate human suffering. He would be very pleased with this gift today and all the good works that this gift will enable.”

According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, the Morningside Foundation donation is tied with gifts to Johns Hopkins University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Cornell University for the tenth-largest gift in higher education since 1967. The top spot is shared by the Gates Millennium Scholar Program and India’s Vedanta University, both valued at $1 billion.