Philanthropy, US-style

The latest Harvard bulletin contained a little reminder of why Harvard has the largest endowment of any institution in the world.

The Rainmakers, Class of 1981
The class of 1981’s 25th reunion has set records all the way around. The class gift was the largest ever for a 25th reunion with $40 Million, participation was at an all-time high with 75 percent, the Class Report book boasts a record 989 entries, and over 800 classmates registered to attend. Mother Nature also lent a hand in the festivities, supplying the most rain for a 25th reunion. We will be sending everyone who braved the weather an umbrella that says “The Rainmakers, Class of 1981”.

That’s an average gift of $40,444 per graduate.

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4 Responses to Philanthropy, US-style

  1. Patrick says:

    And that is 25 years later. The real difference is not the money available to give (although it is a huge difference in the case of Harvard – had he graduated, Bill Gates III must have been close to the class of 81!) but the proportion of that money that is given.

    Probably further validation of Melbourne’s graduate program, or at least the idea.

  2. Joe C says:

    My take on Harvard is this.
    Many of our friends with bright kids, good school marks and 1400 sats were told not to even bother applying for Harvard if a kid fits a certain profile. That is if the kid went to a private school and had parents holding down great jobs.- NY banker and lawyer type.
    The profile Harvard is mostly looking for is the public school kid with the same grades with struggling parents.
    My guess is that this has two advantages for Harvard. Firstly this form of discrimination suits the image of the place and as they are private they have every right to run themselves as they see fit. Secondly it certainly helps with fundraising efforts if the kids are much more thankful than the very well off they are also more likely to make bigger contributions. “Rich” kids may have to much a sense of entitlelement andtherefore not as generous with the numbers they write in the check.

    It also helps they had a great fund management group that made oodles of cash for them over the years taking the endowment to 25-30 billion from 3 bill in the early 90’s. They can get picky with the choice of people they take. They fired these guys by the way because a few of them earned $25 mill for hitting their targets.

  3. Patrick says:

    The profile Harvard is mostly looking for is the public school kid with the same grades with struggling parents.

    er, you mean to fill in the gaps left by the legacy places?

    But the point sounds reasonable enough.

  4. Sarah says:

    While there is some truth in what Joe C and Patrick say regarding the profile of the Harvard undergraduate, neither statement is fully accurate.

    First, on the legacy places point: while having parents/ancestors who attended Harvard may be an advantage in the admissions process, in practice this advantage is slight. From my understanding (having interviewed candidates for many years, but not being privy to actual decisions made by the admissions committee), all other things being equal between applicants, being a legacy candidate might tip the balance — but it might not. Of course there are exceptions, but these are the ones that prove the rule.

    On the preference for lower-middle class applicants: I don’t know the facts here. But suffice it to say that Harvard goes out of its way to make the university accessible to students without financial means — even in the late 1980s over 70% of my classmates were on some form of financial aid (meaning some combination of loans, grants, and subsidised campus jobs). While I don’t know the current percentage, I suspect that the main difference now is that a greater proportion of those students receive grants for all or part of their fees. What I can say is that the odds of being admitted are worse every year — only something like 1 in 12 applicants make it in.

    As for the “sense of entitlement” point, I am not sure if I agree here or not. Despite being a private university, there was anything but a strong sense of entitlement amongst my friends and classmates (whether on financial aid or not). We were all very much aware that the true cost of our education was only partially met by the hefty tuition fees. In addition, Harvard does a great job with alumni relations, which creates a positive feeling among many graduates — which in turn influences decisions to contribute in future.

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