FAS Shifts Strategy for Pitching House Renewal

As Harvard cruises past its $6.5 billion capital campaign goal, Faculty of Arts and Sciences administrators have rethought how they pitch House renewal, one of the campaign's top priorities, to donors and alumni.

In an interview Thursday, FAS Dean Michael D. Smith said administrators are now linking fundraising more closely to potential donors’ undergraduate House affiliations. While he said these donations ultimately will contribute to the umbrella “House renewal” project, launched to renovate Harvard’s 12 undergraduate Houses, FAS may honor donors with named spaces in the House of their choice.

“The money still comes honestly as supportive of the entire program—that’s how we spend the money,” Smith said. “But the recognition gets tied to particular spaces in the Houses that you care about.”

Echoing Smith, Tamara E. Rogers ’74, vice president for Alumni Affairs and Development said donors can express their interest in naming a space within a particular House. She added, however, that their financial contributions may not be used in reconstructing that House.

“[House renewal is] a project that requires a great deal of funding in order to get all of the Houses done, so that I think normally it’s not so closely tied, and I think the donors understand that,” she said.


FAS aims to raise $400 million for House renewal during Harvard's record-breaking $6.5 billion capital campaign, which has exceed its goal. In comparison to other FAS priorities, such as fundraising for faculty research and for the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, House renewal has not seen such momentum in previous years.

Smith said that he had not expected the fundraising process to be easy. He added that administrators at Princeton and Yale—institutions that have raised money for similar large-scale projects—told him that it would be difficult to gather funds to revamp already standing buildings.

“I personally think we’ve been doing very well in fundraising for House renewal,” Smith said. “Yeah, we didn’t raise a single $400 million gift like we did for the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, but it’s a different project.”

The first fully-renovated building, Dunster House, opened last fall. Construction will begin on Winthrop House this summer and Lowell House is slated for renewal the following year. In total, the House renewal project could cost as much as $1.3 billion.

Administrators have already used the revamped Dunster House to host events for potential donors and to show alumni the House’s new facilities, a concrete example of the vision for a project that administrators have said would otherwise be difficult to articulate.

In the interview, Smith also said Harvard administrators have considered constructing undergraduate Houses in Allston following the renewal of Houses on the river.

—Staff writer Melissa C. Rodman can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @melissa_rodman.

—Staff writer Luca F. Schroeder can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @lucaschroeder.