David Rockefeller has pledged $100-million to Harvard University, his alma mater. The pledge is the third gift of that size he has made in recent years. He announced in 2005 that he planned to give $100-million apiece to the Museum of Modern Art and to Rockefeller University, both in New York.
As with the other pledges, Harvard will receive the money upon Mr. Rockefeller’s death.
In the meantime, and as he has done with the other two pledges, Mr. Rockefeller, who is 92, said that beginning this year, he would start giving Harvard an annual payment of $2.5-million a year until he dies. The amount of the payment is approximately equal to what the university would earn from income from the principal of the pledge, but this way the university can benefit from it now rather than waiting until he dies.
Approximately $70-million of the pledge will support study-abroad programs for undergraduates, as well as internships and service and research programs in foreign countries. Some of that money will also provide annual stipends for undergraduates studying abroad who otherwise could not afford to do so.
The study-abroad component of the pledge is of special significance to Mr. Rockefeller, who spent the summer of 1933 in Germany in an effort to learn the language and to meet Harvard’s foreign-language requirements at the time, and saw firsthand the rise of fascism in that country.
“Increasingly it’s important for students to spend a significant amount of time abroad, and I just think that it isn’t enough to know just about this country.” he said in an interview. “The best way, from my own experience of learning about other parts of the world, is to go there and meet the people and live with them. And therefore, I think this program is going to help, hopefully, many students at Harvard to get the kind of experience that I think is just as vital for them as the education they get at Harvard.”
The remaining $30-million will support arts programs. Most of the money will be used to build three new study centers where undergraduates can study original art works from the university’s extensive holdings, including collections from the Fogg, Busch-Reisinger, and Sackler museums.
With an endowment that is valued at nearly $35-billion, Harvard is the wealthiest university in the world, and is often criticized for courting and landing large donations. Yet officials there say the institution’s wealth does not negate the need for gifts such as Mr. Rockefeller’s.
“Harvard has many important things to do and many important things that it is especially well equipped to do because of the talent of our students, the ability of our faculty, the important kinds of questions that we are asking about the world around us, and those endeavors require resources. So as we initiate new kinds of engagements and new programs, we find that those aspirations require support,” said Drew Gilpin Faust, president of Harvard.
Mr. Rockefeller, retired chairman of Chase Manhattan Bank and the last living child of John D. Rockefeller Jr., graduated from the university in 1936 and served on its Board of Overseers from 1954 to 1968.
Over the years he has given Harvard gifts totaling $40-million and has given or pledged a total of at least $1-billion to nonprofit institutions over his lifetime. Mr. Rockefeller told The Chronicle in an extended interview that he wants to announce the beneficiaries of his fortune before he dies.
(To learn about other big gifts from individuals, see The Chronicle’s searchable database.)