The Harvard Campaign, officially launched on September 21 after
the quietest of quiet phases, seeks $6.5 billion (the largest initial target
ever set in American higher education) and begins its public phase with $2.8
billion already received or pledged. (That “nucleus fund” exceeds the total of $2.653
billion raised during Harvard’s last fundraising drive, the University Campaign,
the public phase of which ran from 1994 to 1999.)

The announcement event was focused on the broadest themes:
advancing the power of integrated knowledge; new approaches to learning and
teaching; global Harvard; meaning, values and creativity; innovation and
discovery; attracting and supporting talent; and creating the campus of the
twenty-first century. President Drew Faust’s address (see below) put The
Harvard Campaign in the context of changes in the discovery and dissemination
of knowledge and its application to contemporary problems; universities’
continuing importance to society in sustaining liberal-arts learning and
humanistic inquiry; and the changing external environment. The new campaign website is similarly
thematic; detailed priorities, and aspirations—for professorships, new programs,
facilities, and so on—will apparently unfold later, when a formal campaign case
statement is published and individual schools’ campaigns emerge.

A general overview in the campaign news announcement
suggests that funds raised will be applied to:

teaching and research (45 percent)

financial aid and “the student experience” (25 percent)

capital improvements (20 percent)

flexible funding “to foster collaborations and initiatives”
(10 percent)

Details will presumably be forthcoming, but it is
possible to tease out some further directions now.

• Research and teaching:
Harvard will pursue interdisciplinary programs in neuroscience; the
environment; energy; and global health. It aims to further global engagement
through research and education around the world, and to emphasize innovations in
teaching within each school, and across departmental and school boundaries. No
information was provided on prospective growth in the faculty ranks, but the
news release and prior comments
by University leaders both emphasized expansion of the School of
Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS), which is apparently scheduled for
robust growth.

Teaching priorities range from further development of the edX online
learning partnership with MIT, pedagogical research and seed funding (among
other programs) through the Harvard
Initiative for Learning and Teaching (both of which now report to a newly
appointed vice provost for advances in learning), and school-wide curricular
and pedagogical revisions like that just announced by the Harvard School of
Public Health (HSPH).

• Financial aid:
Much as student need has risen—visibly in the College, but no less urgently for
graduate students in the arts and sciences and many professional schools—administrators
are pressed to put aid funding on a sustainable basis with permanent, endowed
resources, relieving pressure on unrestricted income from tuition and other
sources. (It is notable that even if a quarter of the entire campaign goal were
raised and dedicated solely to FAS, that injection of endowment resources would
just about finance the unendowed portion of the current undergraduate-aid
program, leaving nothing to support graduate and professional students.)

• Capital improvements:
The largest identified projects and programs are the science
complex in Allston, where much of SEAS will be housed and its growth
accommodated, and the renovation of
undergraduate Houses, a $1-billion-plus effort now under way. “Common
spaces” projects are also slated for a significant investment, notably a
campus center that, The Crimson has
reported, will be fashioned out of some part of Holyoke Center. (It is
interesting to note that the most
recent Allston institutional master plan filing with Boston regulators
indicates an enlarged administrative building at the intersection of North
Harvard Street and Western Avenue, encompassing 300,000 square feet—raising the
possibility that a good number of administrative personnel might soon join the
SEAS scientists in establishing Harvard’s presence in the emerging campus

Additional Allston projects in the offing include athletic
facilities—renovation and reconfiguration of Harvard Stadium, and a new basketball
pavilion—as well as a series of Harvard Business School executive-education,
conference, and academic facilities, all covered in the recent institutional
master plan filing.

Other large projects being talked about include a
prospective building to complete Harvard Kennedy School’s quadrangle. It is
unclear whether any substantial construction is planned on behalf of HSPH,
which has identified extensive needs in its many, scattered buildings, or for
the essentially landlocked Graduate School of Design, which is out of space
(and which may find opportunities for faculty members involved in materials and
other technical fields to locate alongside SEAS colleagues in the new Allston
facility or elsewhere).

The rest of this report covers the launch events:

a faculty panel;

a conversation on philanthropy; and

President Faust’s address.

These accounts are followed by discussion of the campaign’s
context, and of the next steps in explaining its aspirations to, and engaging,
the wider Harvard community.

September 21: “An Illuminating

The inaugural events for the launch, officially billed as “An Illuminating Day”
for donors, volunteers, and a selection of administrators, deans, and faculty
members (others were invited in a September 19 e-mail from Tamara Elliot
Rogers, vice president for alumni affairs and development, to watch online), were
built around a series of Crimson binaries. The invitation to events featured a
quote from President Drew Faust: “Our task is to illuminate the past and shape
the future.”

The substantive sessions themselves began in Memorial Church
(an echo, in a way, of Harvard’s modest beginnings as a religious academy in
the Massachusetts wilderness) and then transferred to Sanders Theatre, in
Memorial Hall (a monument to service and sacrifice, built to commemorate the
Civil War).

They progressed from a faculty panel, to a “conversation” on
philanthropy, to President Faust’s address—and then, as reward, a private
evening including cocktails, dinner, and celebratory entertainment at Harvard

• “The Future of
Knowledge”: the faculty panel. Five
senior professors (profiled here) began the proceedings in Memorial Church.

The Reverend Jonathan Walton, Pusey minister in the Memorial
Church and Plummer professor of Christian morals, welcomed the audience to the
church, calling it a place of both veritas (truth) and caritas (love and
service), and therefore an appropriate venue to begin The Harvard Campaign.

Photographs by Kris Snibbe/Harvard News Office

James F. Rothenberg in Memorial Church

F. Rothenberg ’68, M.B.A.’70—Corporation member, Harvard treasurer, and campaign
co-chair—then rose to introduce the panel. He recalled his 170 round-trip
flights from Los Angeles to Boston for Harvard business since he was elected to
the senior governing board. An English concentrator, he remembered learning to love literature, and had become philanthropically involved with the
University. His business is investments, he said, but “it’s hard to find a
better investment than Harvard.” He continued, “Traditional values,
excellence, and innovation—that is a package worthy of our support.”  The faculty members, he said, would explore
the future of knowledge, teaching, learning.

Jonathan L. Zittrain (professor of law, professor of computer science, and
diverse other titles) had earlier expressed his hope that his colleagues would
address large issues: would the work of universities proceed in a nonprofit or
a for-profit environment, for example, and what was the academy’s role in
countering the rise of “truthiness” (Stephen Colbert’s coinage for asserting
claims of knowledge based on feel or gut instinct, without reference to
evidence or logic)? He began by asking the panelists to describe how the
nature of knowledge has changed in their own fields of expertise—and
teasing out their view of their work as basic or applied.

thing in my field that’s changed the most is our ability to generate data,”
said Hopi Hoekstra, Agassiz professor of zoology and curator of mammals at the
Museum of Comparative Zoology. “When I was a graduate student, we didn’t have a
complete genome sequence. Now we can do this for approximately $1,000 for the
human genome, and it can take just a few weeks. This is mind-blowing.” Fellow
scientific researcher Peter Sorger, Krayer professor of systems pharmacology at
Harvard Medical School, added that genomics has contributed to his lab’s study
of cancer, as well as Hoekstra’s focus on evolution. Moreover, he said, that
quantitative methods, which began with genomics, have spread to other areas of
biology. “That’s faced us with the fundamental question, what does it mean to
know something?” Increasingly, he said, biology has become computational.

data and computation have also affected the social sciences and humanities. “In
business, the world has gotten a lot more complicated,” said Rebecca Henderson,
McArthur University Professor at Harvard Business School (HBS). “Research has
gotten much more focused and precise, because we have huge datasets now and better
techniques. And simultaneously, we’re searching for ways to get inside these
corporations and hang out with them, and feel what it’s like. Trying to keep
those two things in balance is the name of the game.” Alison Simmons, Wolcott
professor of philosophy, commented that as a graduate student, she frequently
had to travel to archives to locate texts under study. Now, she says, “texts
are available online, so I can spend more of my time trying to figure out what
they mean, and not traveling to find them.”

Photographs by Kris Snibbe/Harvard News Office

Faculty panelists Jonathan L. Zittrain, Rebecca Henderson, and Peter Sorger

has affected not only the generation of knowledge, but also its distribution,
and the role of the Internet and open access was a recurring theme. “A
fundamental goal in the university has to be to get the information out there,
and for the citizenry to understand it is theirs to have,” said Sorger,
describing trends toward open-source software and open access in research

to the truthiness problem (Zittrain played several audio clips throughout the
panel as amusing prompts), Simmons said, “What we’re able to do here with our
students is help them figure out what to do with so much data, so much
knowledge. Our job is to help them sift through what’s the reliable data,
what’s not the reliable data, what’s a reasonable inference to make from the
data. The same is true with texts.” As for
individual scholars’ role and that of the institution, Simmons said it is
“highly important that the university remains a place where our job is to
inquire disinterestedly.”

panelists agreed that in a world where information and data are abundant and
accessible, critical thinking is
indispensable. Drawing on her field of evolutionary genomics, Hoekstra noted,
“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.”

concurred, pointing out that in her own field of climate change (she is
co-director of HBS’s business and environment initiative), parsing the enormous
amount of available information is a daunting task requiring expertise. Of
people who simply search websites for information, she said, “The idea that you
could navigate with no background, with no understanding of where to look—I
really think it’s a mistake. [Academics] should be on the ’net, we should be
reaching out, we should be connected to the world. But the idea that you don’t
need training, that the real knowledge is not difficult to understand, I think
is just really wrong.” In
thinking about how to share knowledge with the public (Zittrain prompted with
the introductory music for a TED talk), Henderson cautioned that the temptation
to speak for large fees or to popularize research for publication “changes
behavior.” The temptation to popularize, she said, risks losing “that
connection to what really grounds you.”

is a process; it’s not an artifact,” said Sorger. “Knowledge
doesn’t live either stacked away in the libraries of yore, or now on the Internet.
It is the process of thinking about problems—that’s the critical role of the
university.” Education and research, he said, are intimately coupled. “If you
ask what renews a university, it’s students and graduate students.”

added that traditional forms of education are still important even as online
initiatives are on the rise. “It’s one-way, the Internet,” she maintained. “What
you really need is a two-way street. If you’re getting bored, I can start
challenging you in one way or another and get you engaged. If I see that you’re
confused, I can pause and explain. Education happens in a two-way direction.”

In a
complementary vein, Sorger emphasized the need for what he called
“curiosity-driven research” as opposed to programmatic research driven by set
agendas. Here, he declared, universities can excel: “Nobody is more
curiosity-driven and more resistant to an agenda than a graduate student.”

said that unlike corporations, with their shorter time horizons, universities pursue
problems that have broad application. That matters especially, she implied,
because looking ahead, she is “afraid the world is going to get
harder and rougher over the next 20 to 30 years, and I think one of the things
the university can be is a place to step back and say, what are the things we
value in the long term? How do we hold space for that which we think is most
important?” Whether their research is basic or applied in some more immediate
sense, all the panelists felt strongly that its importance and aims pointed
toward dissemination and advancing knowledge through
peer review and public critique, more than to any monetary return.

“I share in common among all of us being very
curiosity-driven,” said Zittrain in conclusion, “and looking with anticipation
and joy, even with the challenges and perhaps some of the problems ahead, at
what the University can contribute and what we can contribute to the fun, the
creative advancement of knowledge and the human condition.”

Photographs by Kris Snibbe/Harvard News Office

David M. Rubenstein and Bill Gates in Sanders Theatre

• “The Opportunity to
Make a Difference”: a conversation on philanthropy. After a change of
venue, to Sanders Theatre, Harvard
Alumni Association president Catherine A. Gellert ’93 welcomed the audience
and introduced a four-minute video of alumni, ranging from baker Joanne Chang ’91
and Goldman Sachs chairman and CEO Lloyd Blankfein ’75, J.D. ’78 (talking about
financial aid) to Jack Reardon ’60, the executive director of the alumni
association (“I never got married until I was 50 years old because I was
married to Harvard”), and professional
football player Ryan Fitzpatrick ’05.

The Corporation’s senior fellow, Robert D. Reischauer ’63, then explained his seven-decade association with Harvard, beginning with boyhood
exploration of the campus steam tunnels from his professor-father’s Harvard-owned house on
Divinity Avenue. He thought then that they were what powered Harvard, but he had come to
have, he said, “a somewhat more elevated perspective” on what made the
University go: the resources with which it was entrusted, and the use of those
resources by the president, deans, and faculty. He then introduced two people
who, he said, understood the importance of higher-education institutions to the
well-being of humankind, and Harvard’s role in educating leaders, pursuing
discovery, and sustaining culture. Campaign
co-chair David M. Rubenstein (who now also chairs Harvard’s global
advisory board) then engaged Microsoft co-founder William H. (Bill) Gates III ’77, LL.D.  ’07,
in a conversation on “The Opportunity to Make a Difference” (read about their
philanthropic work here).

Neither is, strictly, a Harvard graduate. Gates dropped out
of the College (read
Walter Isaacson’s account of his undergraduate years and the creation of
Microsoft) and returned to
deliver the 2007 Commencement address and to receive an honorary degree. Rubenstein,
a Duke and Chicago Law alumnus, knows the University in part as the father of
Alexandra Nicole Rubenstein ’07 and Gabrielle W. Rubenstein ’10, and his wife,
Alice Rogoff Rubenstein, who earned her M.B.A. from Harvard Business School in 1978.

Gates and Rubenstein, co-founder and co-chief executive
officer of The Carlyle Group, represent twin paths—technological entrepreneurship
and finance—to immense wealth in recent decades (and the underpinnings of many
current capital campaigns). They have also deployed their net worths (depending
on how one counts, a multiple of Harvard’s $31-billion endowment) to support diverse
styles in philanthropy. (Gates’s foundation has $36 billion in assets—more than the Harvard endowment—and dispenses $4 billion annually: about the same as the University’s budget.)

Rubenstein has been broadly supportive of arts,
cultural, higher-education, and historical institutions. Gates, perhaps even
more prominent today as a philanthropist than as a globally recognized business leader, established the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which focuses
on global health, global economic development, and, domestically, on preparing
students to succeed in higher education and completing degrees that will ready
them for economic success. It underwrites fundamental research and deployment
in fields such as vaccines for difficult-to-treat diseases, and emphasizes
program evaluation and measurable successes. Gates has been relatively
uninvolved in traditional charities like underwriting scholarships or endowing
professorships. (He and classmate Steven A. Ballmer ’77, Microsoft’s CEO, did
make one significant, conventional gift to Harvard, however: they
underwrote Maxwell Dworkin, the 100,000-square-foot home to Harvard’s computer
sciences and electrical engineering faculty, named for their mothers, Mary
Maxwell Gates and Beatrice Dworkin Ballmer.)

Rubenstein set the conversational tone with direct,
sometimes teasing questions (“Have you ever thought what you could have made of
yourself if you had stayed and gotten your degree?”), and in so doing offered
the audience the opportunity to hear and see the richest man on the planet speak candidly about
the course of his career and his evolution from single-minded software entrepreneur—who
said that he knew the license plate of every car in the Microsoft parking lot
and when the drivers arrived and left—to the world’s leading philanthropist.
Along the way, he elicited a short history of the rise of Microsoft and other
segments of the computer industry, and of Gates’s personal maturing and
reinvention: Gates said the excitement he feels when working with experts from
many fields (malaria and other diseases, for instance) on possible ways to help
the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation do its work better reminds him of the
excitement he felt in his twenties when writing software and building his

As for finishing his undergraduate degree, Gates made a plug
for lifelong learning and online education, explaining that he now takes a lot
of online courses, including one on oceanography last month.  (The
foundation is funding research on the effectiveness of massive open online
courses, MOOCs, of the sort offered through edX and other enterprises.) He
also described himself as not a usual dropout, because he did attend the
College for three years and took a lot of courses—a plug of sorts for the
residential college experience, too.

A rigorous, analytical philanthropist, Gates nonetheless
offered a cautionary riff on the importance of relying too much on metrics to
track the progress of one’s giving. His foundation employs detailed metrics in
tabulating the decrease in children’s deaths from diseases in underdeveloped
countries (“The greatest inequality in the world”), but that works much less
well, he noted, for another major priority: trying to assess how effectively various initiatives
may improve K-12 education. Insisting too much on exact measures of progress
might, perversely, divert a philanthropist from ever taking on such hard
challenges, he said.

When Rubenstein asked why the Gateses planned to have
their foundation go out of existence within 20 years of their deaths, rather
than make grants in perpetuity, Gates said that he expected its missions to be
solved, and that its approach (for example, involving tailored research on the
health problems it addresses) meant that, unlike other entities, “It’s a
purpose-built organization.”

The conversation on philanthropy concluded with comments on
wealth and children (“It’s certainly distortionary” to have parents who are
very wealthy and/or very well known); on how to turn down requests for funding
that don’t fit your objectives; and on Gates’s legacy. On the latter point, he
said, Microsoft obviously did well, but there were many other important
computer-industry companies, and the personal-computing and Internet revolution
would have unfolded in any event. His most exciting accomplishment, he said,
would be eradicating polio (it persists in just three nations now)—and, if that
works, addressing malaria and measles.

Photographs by Kris Snibbe/Harvard News Office

President Drew Faust

• “To Seize an Impatient Future”: President
Drew Faust’s address. Corporation member and campaign co-chair Paul J. Finnegan ’75, M.B.A. ’82, revealed the campaign’s $6.5-billion goal to the audience—and expressed confidence that those assembled could help “meet and beat that goal,” before introducing Faust. “In my world,” he said, “it’s all about leadership.” Praising Faust for her decisive response to the financial crisis, for the reform of the University’s governance, and for initiatives in financial aid, online education, and the arts, he called her “a leader of ‘we’ vs. ‘I.’”

Faust began her 29-minute address, “To Seize an Impatient Future,” on a highly emotional, evocative note:

Just one month ago, nearly 300 men and women, from the Class of 1961 to the Class of 2017, from across the country and around the world, descended on Harvard, took to the Charles, and rowed.

They rowed to honor the late and legendary Harry Parker, Harvard crew coach for more than half a century. They rowed because each of them knew vividly and personally what Harry Parker meant when he said, “I think of myself first as a teacher.”

But they came for another reason, too. They came because Harvard draws you back. Harvard is a place, an experience, you never really get over. It’s as if our university years are larger, magnified, out of proportion to any other time in life, a time when we can let our minds range and roam, when we can find our passions and follow them, test ourselves and stretch ourselves.

What you learned on the river, in the Houses, in the classrooms in Sever or Andover or Langdell, in the carrels of Widener or Gutman, in the laboratories on Oxford Street or off Longwood Avenue, on the stage here in Sanders or at the Loeb—these experiences made you different people. We know how education has transformed each of us, and we know it can change the world. That is why our lives, and our sense of ourselves, continue to flow through Harvard, and Harvard through us.

A campaign, she said, called upon its constituents to determine what they stand for. She outlined a future of demanding change in which “knowledge will be the most important currency”—and hence, the priority of the research mission, itself evolving as the nature of discovery changes and crosses disciplines. An associated priority is “to reimagine how we teach and learn.” Third is greater global involvement—bringing the world to campus, and getting students and faculty members out into the world. In support of their work, investing in the campus is a fourth priority. Attracting and supporting those professors and students—“who we are and who we will be”—is her fifth priority for the campaign (a point where Faust emphasized financial aid heavily, but provided no further detail about the faculty).

“Creating new knowledge, reimagining teaching and learning, engaging globally, reinventing the spaces where we learn and live, attracting and inspiring the best students and faculty: These are essential to our enduring strength. But the future requires something more,” she continued. That something is defining and reasserting the case for the special role of the university in contemporary society, a case she first outlined in her installation address in 2007. As she put it in the campaign address:

Each moment in history, to those who live in it, may seem distinctive, pivotal. To us, at this moment, there can be no doubt that we live in a pivotal and transformative time for the future of knowledge and universities. For nearly four centuries, Harvard has recognized that colleges and universities are special institutions, with an irreplaceable role in society. Almost a millennium since their invention, they continue to challenge us to look beyond the here and now. They bring to bear the critical eye; they incite the imagination; they encourage the skepticism, the rigor, the intellectual adventure and unbounded curiosity that yield our deepest understandings. When I was privileged to be installed six years ago as Harvard’s president, I reflected on what has always seemed to me the essence of a university: that among society’s institutions, it is uniquely accountable to the past and to the future. A university must make an impact on the world we inhabit today. But its responsibilities extend much further. Universities must help define aspirations and possibilities for the long term. Even as they engage the present, they must help us transcend the immediate and the instrumental to explore where human civilization has been and where it hopes to go.

We undertake this campaign in a time when public discourse about higher education focuses narrowly on outcomes measured in products and dollars, numbers and jobs. Make no mistake: These are important, and universities are crucial to those outcomes. But to see universities through so restricted a lens is to fail to recognize their most distinctive strength; it puts at risk their most vital and enduring contributions to society—their singular power in the search for meaning, values, and creativity, in the constant and ever-changing pursuit of truth. This campaign must help us support the structures and modes of academic inquiry, especially but certainly not only the arts and humanities, which devote themselves to pursuing these questions. At the heart of all our research and teaching is the necessity for interpretation and for judgment, for making meaning and making sense out of the world around us. Technology has rendered this effort ever-more challenging, as we are bombarded with information that we seek to transform into knowledge and wisdom. Technology offers magnificent tools, but how shall we use them? How do we know what is true? What is good? What is just? How do we nurture the imagination that kindles innovation and change? How do we understand ourselves, our values, our common humanity in a world that in one sense seems flat, yet at the same time is shaped and often shaken by its contrasts and differences?

These are vital questions that universities have long asked and continue to ask. The Harvard Campaign must affirm—it must insist on—their importance. It must shine a light on why universities matter—and why the higher purposes of higher education must continue to claim a central place in our national life and its educational agenda.

Toward the end, Faust summoned a drumroll of Harvard accomplishment and excellence, beginning with the prior guest:

At Harvard, Bill Gates began to lay the foundation for the personal computer revolution, and Mark Zuckerberg honed the algorithms that spurred the rise of social media. 

At Harvard, poets like Longfellow, T.S. Eliot, e.e. cummings, Robert Lowell, Elizabeth Bishop, Adrienne Rich, and Seamus Heaney all cultivated their craft.

Fairbank and Reischauer pioneered our study of China and Japan. 

Edward Purcell and colleagues discovered nuclear magnetic resonance—the foundation for modern-day imaging. 

At Harvard, Henry Adams received his famous “Education,” and John Rawls conceived his “Theory of Justice.”

Drinker and Shaw invented the iron lung; and Warren demonstrated the use of ether as anesthesia.

At Harvard, Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin explained the composition of the sun.

At Harvard, Jack Lemmon, Stockard Channing, and John Lithgow graced the stage; Leonard Bernstein got his start as a conductor; and Yo-Yo Ma played here in Sanders for 75 cents a ticket.

At Harvard, W. E. B. Du Bois explored ideas that would change our understanding of race in America.

Thoreau took his first courses in philosophy, and Emerson delivered the oration hailed as America’s “intellectual Declaration of Independence.”

At Radcliffe, Helen Keller wrote the story of her life, and Gertrude Stein probed the nature of consciousness with her professor William James.

At Harvard, Ralph Bunche and Ban Ki-Moon, Mary Robinson and Gro Harlem Brundtland, prepared for their careers on the international stage.

At Harvard, George Washington quartered the troops that would win American independence, and George Marshall, on the steps of Memorial Church, announced the historic plan that would bear his name.

Before concluding her appeal for support, she again summoned the spirit she had evoked in her opening:

We will gather again tonight, on the other side of the Charles. When you cross the river, think for a moment about one of those scores of people who returned to Harvard just a month ago. Think of what she said about her teacher and mentor Harry Parker, in words that reach beyond her experience and capture something essential about Harvard. “He made people prove themselves to themselves,” she remembered. “It’s like he said, ‘This is what you could be. Do you want to be that?’” 

Tonight, as we cross the river, we can pause to ask that question of ourselves, and of Harvard. “This is what you could be. Do you want to be that?” It is what we ask of our students, and what our campaign asks of us all. What is it that Harvard could be? What will we do to make it so?

Read the president’s complete text here.

Corporation member and campaign co-chair Joseph J. O’Donnell ’67, M.B.A. ’71, then rose to close the remarks—rueing that he had been chosen to follow an eloquent oration. He thanked vice president Tamara Rogers for her effort to organize the campaign, expressed confidence that “we’ll exceed that” campaign goal, and summoned his own experience as a scholarship student. After graduation, he recalled, his mentor, Fred Glimp—longtime vice president for alumni affairs and development—asked him to chair his College class fifth reunion. O’Donnell, a consummate fundraiser, said that he would consider the request, but he was busy—whereupon he was advised, “I’m not asking. I’m calling in my marker.” As someone who relishes the work, he let the audience know that his daughter Kate ’09 was picking up the baton, serving as her fifth-reunion chair. The implications about the work ahead, and who would do it on Harvard’s behalf, were clear. And with that, O’Donnell brought the afternoon to a close.

The Campaign in
Context: Managing Expectations

From any perspective, $6.5 billion is a lot
of money. But Harvard was never going to cede bragging rights to Stanford (The Stanford Challenge,
concluded at the end of 2011, raised $6.2 billion), not to mention The
University of Southern California’s current $6-billion goal.

More pragmatically, since the last campaign ended in the
previous millennium, Harvard has not conducted a consolidated fund
drive—essentially missing an entire campaign cycle as the presidency of
Lawrence H. Summers ended prematurely, in 2006, and then financial crisis and
the Great Recession made it difficult to proceed. During the early years of
that decade, the fruits of the University Campaign, robust endowment returns,
and rising federal support for research encouraged Harvard schools to enlarge
their faculties, to erect millions of square feet of new facilities (many of
them expensive-to-operate laboratories), and to invest in information
technology and international research. Financial aid was liberalized. In short,
Harvard became a larger, more costly place to run: operating expenses were $2.1
billion in the fiscal year ended June 30, 2001; $3 billion in fiscal 2006;
and $3.8 billion in fiscal 2009—the year
during which the value of the endowment declined by $11 billion and the
University’s financial prospects turned decidedly dark (and demand for aid rose
as the recession pressured family incomes).

Those factors shape The Harvard Campaign: the University
remains a bigger place (fiscal 2012 expenses were just over $4 billion) with a
smaller endowment than it enjoyed several years ago ($31 billion at the end of
fiscal 2012, down from $37 billion at the end of fiscal 2008).

So one task facing University leaders is managing
expectations. President
Faust set about doing that, almost bluntly, in her September 10 academic year
opening talk to the community (with financial themes
echoing her Commencement address last May). “When markets and the endowment were booming,” she said, “Harvard
had a greater margin for error. We could afford to focus less intently on hard
choices about what to do, what not to do, and what to stop doing. We didn’t
need to aggressively seek out new and nontraditional sources of revenue. Those
days are gone.” She cited new worries, such as the federal sequester, which
could reduce federal support for research at Harvard by $40 million annually
(offsetting which would require substantial new annual giving, or the
distribution from an extra $800 million of endowment funds). And she
telegraphed the University’s fiscal 2013 financial results, noting that “we
expect a deficit this year”—a result anyone inaugurating a capital campaign
would prefer to avoid.

this sense, the campaign begins its public phase in a context of unusual
volatility. The financial crisis and recession were unusually sharp and
protracted, their effect on the endowment was historically adverse, and the
government’s fiscal path is remarkably opaque (but not promising). Prudent
administrators are trying to shock-proof this institution, like any other. At
the same time, opportunities may crop up at any time, and may involve
substantial investments even in a pilot phase: the edX online learning venture with MIT came together almost
overnight in the spring of 2012—with an entering ante of $30 million in
commitments and funds to be raised by each partner. The institution’s capacity to fend off unexpected adversities and
to pursue new opportunities in an era of rapid scientific and technological
change thus drives the architecture not only of fundraising, but of Harvard’s
financial strategy and decisions generally.

And so, Faust warned on September 10, on the verge of the largest
higher-education fundraising effort in history, “The Harvard Campaign, set to
launch next week, is one strong and important response to these pressures.… But
we should be clear: the campaign, for all that it will help us achieve, is not
and will not be a panacea.”

It is easy to see why, and to imagine the tradeoffs the University
has made in setting priorities for The Harvard Campaign. Consider the
priorities in just one, admittedly large, part of the University. The Faculty
of Arts and Sciences (FAS) is ramping up a $1-billion-plus effort to renovate and
reimagine the undergraduate Houses. At the same time, its undergraduate financial-aid budget has
risen about 90 percent—an annual increase of nearly $90 million—since 2007; dedicated endowment funds
now cover just 46 percent of that expense. If through this campaign FAS were to
seek, and to be able, to fully pay for House renewal and to endow 80 percent of
current undergraduate-aid costs (a stretch, but one that would maximize its
future flexibility to invest unrestricted tuition income in new academic
programs), it would likely need to raise more just for those priorities than it is attempting to do in this drive
in toto. And of course the FAS campaign likely has many other aspirations as
well: investing in faculty, enhancing teaching, renewing athletic facilities (as shown in
the Allston master plan submission), enlarging the scope of the School of Engineering and Applied
Sciences, and so on.

Across the board, most aspirations included in the campaign cannot
be fully funded by it—and many other goals are not included in the campaign at
all. Any campaign of course requires winnowing of priorities. But the passage
of time since the University Campaign, and the shifting external landscape,
make The Harvard Campaign’s tradeoffs more acute—a balance of
commitments from the past (financial aid, facilities modernization) and hopes
for the future. As Faust put it, even a wholly successful campaign cannot be a

Expectations are likely being shaped in another way, too. As large
as the $6.5-billion goal looms, fundraisers leaven their optimistic animal
spirits with conservatism. No one wants an unobtainable goal. Everyone prefers
to be able to meet and exceed it. As honorary campaign
co-chair Sidney Knafel ’52, M.B.A ’54, told The
Harvard Crimson, even before the launch events, this
campaign’s goal is “a big figure, and I think we’re going to go beyond it.” (Knafel speaks from experience: he is veteran of the
University Campaign, which handily exceeded its initial $2.1-billion goal.) That confidence was echoed repeatedly during the afternoon remarks.

In fact, Harvard has received
gifts (for endowment and current use, and nongovernment research grants) of
approximately $600 million to $650 million during each of the past four fiscal
years (roughly on pace with the prosperous years just before, when business-
and law-school campaigns were concluding). A campaign, by projecting initiatives
and needs that engage donors, aims to lift
giving significantly. With $2.8 billion pledged or received during the quiet
phase, during the next five years of public fundraising, University development
officers would have to increase that annual rate of giving by $150 million or
so to achieve the announced goal—a goodly sum, to be sure, but not otherworldly.
(Their work during the campaign’s quiet phase has shown up smartly in the
annual financial report, with pledges receivable up 20 percent, to $908
million, during fiscal 2012.) Fundraisers like to announce a campaign with 35
percent to 40 percent of the goal in hand or pledged; The Harvard Campaign,
aiming to raise enormous sums, begins at 43 percent—a comforting place to be.

The gifts secured during the quiet phase have provided another reassuring
proof of concept. Gifts and pledges are being counted back through fiscal years
2012 and 2013 (with a few significant gifts made earlier, in anticipation of
the campaign—perhaps including those for the Fogg Art Museum reconstruction and other priorities—grandfathered in the tally
at the donors’ request). During the quiet phase, Harvard has announced $30-million gifts each from campaign
co-chairs Joseph J. O’Donnell and his wife, Katherine O’Donnell, and Glenn H. Hutchins and his family
foundation; $40 million from Gustave and Rita Hauser to launch the learning and teaching initiative; a second $125-million gift for a
bioengineering institute; $50 million for developing life-sciences
and medical technologies from University laboratories; $40 million focused on an
executive-education project at Harvard Business School—following an earlier, separate building gift of $50
million; a
recent $15 million in gifts for curriculum and
pedagogical innovation and other projects at Harvard School of Public Health; and $10.5 million to underwrite Radcliffe
Institute programs. There is a rumored huge gift to be applied, somehow, to
construct an activities center in Holyoke Center—one of the “common spaces,” like the refurbished
Science Center Plaza that guests crossed en route from Memorial Hall to Sanders Theatre during the launch events. And then there are other members of the Corporation
who are campaign co-chairs with a record of generous Harvard philanthropy; they
can be expected to back up their leadership with further gifts. And so on. 

Many such pledges and gifts are in hand, awaiting announcement in
turn—and of course many more will be needed to meet the goal. So far, the
campaign is working—certainly well enough to give very strong confidence in
setting the overall target.

In Prospect

Even as expectations are managed—particularly the expectations of those who
will use the campaign proceeds
(prominently, deans and their faculty colleagues, and students)—fundraising is
about exciting prospective donors and raising their sights. The presentations,
video, and co-chairs’ pep talks on September 21 were
certainly about that. And as the fundraising progress to date demonstrates,
celebratory spirits were warranted.

From here, the work of engaging the broader community

Following the launch events and announcement of the campaign’s goal, alumni and faculty members may still find themselves eager to understand the University’s specific aims—in the aggregate and for each school or programmatic area in which they are most interested. In this regard, it is instructive to compare The Harvard Campaign’s launch with the 1994 beginning of the University Campaign (the only previous institution-wide capital drive). It was preceded by then-president Neil L. Rudenstine’s 24,000-word report to the Board of Overseers the previous autumn, virtually a line-by-line campaign prospectus, detailing investments from expanding access to freshman seminars and undergraduate research opportunities to renovating the outdoor running track and building a new facility for racquet sports—and on through the programs at each professional school and the interdisciplinary, interfaculty research initiatives. The 1994 kickoff event itself featured 10 faculty symposia on fields of knowledge, and another 10 alumni forums on leadership in the various professions. No one involved in the campaign could have left without a clear idea of its specific aims.

The twenty-first century is clearly not the twentieth. Uncertainties abound amid the many opportunities that Harvard’s leaders perceive. The Harvard Campaign, off to a roaring start, is proceeding so as to secure the maximum flexibility for University officers and deans to strengthen the institution. It will be interesting to see how specifically they propose to do so, and how alumni and friends continue to engage with those priorities, as the schools begin rolling out their individual campaigns during the next 15 months—beginning with the Harvard School of Public Health, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, and the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at the end of next month.


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