A big moment for public health as Harvard’s school takes in $350M gift

A billionaire just gave Harvard University the biggest donation it’s ever received, and all $350 million of it will go to the School of Public Health. It’s one of the university’s lesser-funded schools, according to the Boston Globe, which reported that the school’s endowment as of 2013 totaled $1.1 billion – just a small fraction […]

A billionaire just gave Harvard University the biggest donation it’s ever received, and all $350 million of it will go to the School of Public Health.

It’s one of the university’s lesser-funded schools, according to the Boston Globe, which reported that the school’s endowment as of 2013 totaled $1.1 billion – just a small fraction of the university’s nearly $33 billion endowment.

The funding will be released over several years and, according to school officials, will allow the public health school to increase financial aid, introduce loan-forgiveness programs for students who work in underserved areas, help recruit faculty and provide seed funding for research projects.

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In the announcement, Harvard’s president, Drew Gilpin Faust, noted that the world’s slow response to the Ebola outbreak underscores how public health has been under-resourced. “We’re all realizing how important public health is as we become more global and diseases are shared across boundaries,” she said.

University officials told the media that the school plans to focus on studying four areas: pandemics, harmful physical and social environments, humanitarian crises and failing health systems worldwide.

The donation came from the Morningside Foundation, a philanthropy run by the family of billionaire alumni Gerald Chan. He earned master’s and doctorate degrees from the Harvard University School of Public Health in the ’70s and went on to have a successful career in real estate and investment.

Harvard’s School of Public Health has had a role in the research behind eradication of the polio virus, understanding the transmission of HIV and safe surgery checklists.

Read more in-depth about the gift in Harvard Magazine.