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Harvard Gets Record $350 Million Gift for Public Health

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IMAGE: Drew Faust, Harvard President »


Harvard University received a record donation of $350 million for its public health school from the family foundation of real estate developers Gerald and Ronnie Chan of Hong Kong-basedHang Lung Group Ltd. (10)

The gift from the Chan brothers’ Morningside Foundation is focused on addressing pandemics, humanitarian crises, failing health systems and social and environmental threats to health, said Julio Frenk, dean of the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston. The school will be renamed the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in honor of the Chans’ late father.

The public health school will be the second at Harvard, along with the John F. Kennedy School of Government, to be named for an individual. The Chan family’s donation is a “transformational” gift that will provide resources for researchers and students to address complex threats from around the world, Frenk said.

“This is a gift that is incredibly generous and timely as we’re starting our second century,” Frenk said in a telephone interview. “This allows us to invent the future of public health as we create a base of sustainability for our school.”

Funds generated from the gift will go to student financial aid and to help relieve the debt burdens of graduates who want to work in underserved areas of the U.S. and other countries, Frenk said. They will also support the work of junior faculty and researchers working in innovative fields and help pay for new classrooms and computer resources for managing data accumulated by the school’s research projects, he said.

Commencement Speaker

Gerald Chan received his master’s and doctoral degrees in radiation physics and radiobiology from HSPH in the 1970s. An investor in biotechnology, he met Frenk when giving a talk at the school on entrepreneurship and public health. Students invited Chan to be a commencement speaker in 2012.

“The world has moved in such a way that we really need to redouble our efforts in public health if we’re to have a safer place for developed and developing countries,” Chan said. “This is a propitious moment for all sides to highlight the importance of public health.”

Chan, 63, who owns a home in the Boston suburb of Newton, said that while he was studying at HSPH, his father once visited the school. His father, who died in 1986, also worked in real estate. He was a believer in education and relieving human suffering, Chan said.

“Like most Harvard parents, he was simply impressed by Harvard,” Chan said.

Property Developer

Hang Lung Group owns and develops properties in Hong Kong and mainland China, according to the company website. Gerald Chan recently bought about $120 million worth of property in Harvard Square, the Boston Globe reported in April. Chan said he has invested in Boston-area properties from the time he was an HSPH student.

HSPH was established in 1913 in collaboration with the Massachusetts Institute of Technologyand offered courses in preventive medicine and sanitary engineering, according to the school website. The school split from MIT for exclusive affiliation with Harvard in 1922.

Scientists at the school have been leaders in research on infectious and chronic disease, cancer prevention and occupational and environmental health. Since 1962, six directors of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention have been HSPH graduates, according to the school website.

Harvard Fundraising

Harvard said in September that it aims to raise $6.5 billion by 2018, a record goal for university fund drives. The Cambridge, Massachusetts-based school received $150 million, now its second-largest single gift, in February from alumnus Kenneth Griffin, founder and chief executive officer of Citadel Advisors LLC. Hansjoerg Wyss, a medical-device entrepreneur and graduate of Harvard Business School, has given two gifts of $125 million each.

Harvard President Drew Faust has outlined the objectives of the fund drive, led by the generation of “new knowledge,” along with campus construction, student aid, research into online education and extension of the university’s “global reach.” The campaign total now stands at $3.8 billion, said Christine Heenan, a university spokeswoman.

Harvard, founded in 1636, is the oldest and richest U.S. university with an endowment valued at $32.7 billion.

Article Credit: Bloomberg

Updated 5 Years ago

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