Harvard University has received the largest donation in its history, a $350 million gift that the school revealed on Monday.
The $350 million donation, made by the Morningside Foundation, is to Harvard’s School of Public Health, and has no strict purpose, although the school’s dean Julio Frenk said it will help to research and combat global health threats of all sorts, from the Ebola virus to pollution.
The Morningside Foundation is the family charity of Hong Kong-based real estate billionaires Ronnie and Gerald Chan, the latter of whom is an alumnus of the public health school.
As a result, the School of Public Health will be renamed to the T. H. Chang School of Public Health in honor of the Changs’ father. It will be only the second time a Harvard school has been renamed for an individual, following the Kennedy School of Government.
“The Chan family’s generosity sends a signal to the world: This is the public health moment,” said Harvard president Drew Faust in a statement.
Gerald Chen told The Boston Globe that the School of Public Health is a “hidden gem” at the university, often overshadowed by the other professional schools whose graduates tend to move on to more lucrative careers in business or law.
The last year has seen many enormous donations to Harvard and other top colleges in the U.S. Last February, hedge fund manager Kenneth Griffin donated $150 million to Harvard College, the largest gift ever received by the school’s undergraduate arm, while Swiss businessman Hansjeor Wyss has given the school a pair of $125 million donations. In 2013, Yale University received the largest gift in its history when it garnered a $250 million donation, while John Hopkins garnered $350 million from former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Chen’s donation still pales before the largest donation in modern academic history, a $600 million gift to Caltech by Intel founder Gordon Moore in 2001.
Harvard’s endowment already exceeds $32 billion, nearly $12 billion more than its closest competitors, Yale and the University of Texas. The endowment, larger than the GDP of several dozen countries, amounts to $1.5 million for each of Harvard’s 21,000 undergraduate and graduate students.
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