BOSTON, Sept 21 Harvard, the richest university
in the United States, said on Saturday it would seek to raise
some $6.5 billion in donations to fund new academic initiatives
and bolster its financial aid program.
The fundraising drive by the Cambridge, Massachusetts,
institution is the university's biggest and believed to be the
most ambitious ever undertaken by a university, ahead of one
concluded last year by Stanford University in California that
raised $6.2 billion.
Harvard unveiled its campaign at an event featuring Bill
Gates, who spent three years at the school in the 1970s before
dropping out to co-found Microsoft Corp.
Gates, who was ranked by Forbes magazine this year as the
world's second-richest person behind Mexico's Carlos Slim, joked
about his decision to leave the university during a talk before
alumni and donors.
"You never say that you are 'dropping out' of Harvard. I
'went on leave' from Harvard," he said. "If things hadn't worked
out for my company, Microsoft, I could have come back."
Gates did not say whether he intended to donate to the
ambitious campaign. A spokesman for the billionaire, whose
foundation has made several grants to the university, said later
on Saturday there was nothing to announce.
The university has already raised $2.8 billion from more
than 90,000 donors during the pre-launch phase of the campaign,
its first major fundraising drive in more than a decade, it said
in a press release.
Harvard's investment portfolio is worth about $30.7 billion,
roughly the size of the annual gross domestic product of the
Baltic nation of Latvia.
That endowment shrank 0.05 percent in the fiscal year ended
in 2012, after double-digit gains the previous year, according
to the most recent figures from the university.
"The endowment is meant to last forever. ... It enables our
faculty to do groundbreaking research and supports financial aid
for our students," Vice President for Alumni Affairs &
Development Tamara Rogers said in a statement. "In order to
undertake new activities, we are going to have to raise new
Nearly half of the money raised in the new campaign will
support teaching and research, while a quarter will go for
financial aid and related programs. The rest will go toward
capital improvements and a flexible fund, according to Harvard,
recently ranked America's No. 2 university behind Princeton by
U.S. News & World Report.
Four years ago, Harvard was forced to suspend its campus
expansion and put the construction of a $1 billion science
complex on hold after its endowment lost 27.3 percent during the
Funds from the campaign will help finance that project in
Boston's Allston neighborhood. Construction resumed a year ago.