Remarks by Drew Gilpin Faust at the Close of The Harvard Campaign

Drew Gilpin Faust

Sanders Theatre, Cambridge, Mass.

As prepared.

May Harvard be as wise as it is smart,
as restless as it is proud,
as bold as it is thoughtful,
as new as it is old,
as good as it is great. 

With these words, these five lines of fervent aspiration, we marked the public launch of this remarkable, and remarkably successful, Harvard Campaign.

That was five years ago, in 2013. On one hand, that is mere moments in the context of a university well into its fourth century. On the other hand, it feels like a lifetime when I think of all the ways in which the world has been altered since then.

This campaign has been about the future — the future of Harvard, and the future of the world. Throughout this afternoon and evening you’ll see dizzying glimpses of that future unfold in ways that only Harvard makes possible. You’ve heard over the last hour about domains of knowledge being advanced and transformed through research and teaching across the University. We are, as tonight’s celebration will attest, composing the future together.

Now, I’m all for composing the future. But the historian’s impulse, this historian included, is also to look back: to examine who we’ve been and where we’ve been, to understand where we are and discern where we must go. For me, the past and the future intertwine — especially if we hope to get that future right.

I think that’s one reason I’m so attached to those five lines, those paired attributes, because they capture so well the dance between Harvard’s past and its future, between the enduring and the emerging, between constancy and change.

This campaign has helped shape and secure Harvard’s future by investing in both the enduring and emerging … sustaining what we have always been, and indeed must always be, as well as challenging us and enabling us in who we must become.

The support you’ve given to Harvard through this campaign has allowed us to meet the central challenge we laid out when we publicly launched the campaign: to seize an impatient future. Today is to thank you and to celebrate how you have made this hallowed institution stronger, nimbler, more in the world and of the world. There are many ways to explore that as we gather today to mark what we’ve accomplished together, but I can think of none better than through the lens of those 10 adjectives, those twinned testaments to constancy and change.

This campaign has made us smarter … and also wiser.

For centuries Harvard scientists have asked “How?” and “Why?” and “What if?” — and the answers to those questions have made the world smarter and changed the course of human history. The questions we need to get smarter about today are mind-boggling: Where can the tools of genomics and computation take us? How will machine learning and artificial intelligence alter our lives? How will emerging energy technologies alter our planet.

We are only now beginning to fully realize the promise of genomics, neuroscience, imaging, quantum physics, therapeutics, immunology. Thanks in part to this campaign, researchers from Harvard are working together to connect disciplines, ask better questions, and conquer disease. Scientists at Harvard Medical School have identified genetic variants associated with synaptic pruning — offering the first real insights into the genetics and biology behind schizophrenia. Xiaowei Zhuang just described to you how her lab in the Department of Chemistry has developed an imaging method that enables analysis of fundamental biological problems, including virus-cell interactions. Social scientists have mapped the decline of violence, and education faculty have transformed our understanding of early language acquisition. At the GSD, as you just heard, the Center for Green Buildings and Cities has just opened HouseZero, both the embodiment of what is possible and a laboratory to help get us there.

Harvard has been home to extraordinary minds — and excellence across the disciplines and professions — forever. As my predecessor Charles William Eliot said in his installation speech nearly a century and a half ago: “We would have them all, and at their best.” Thanks to this campaign, we have continued to attract the brightest students and faculty from across the globe.

But what about wise? Wisdom is borne of something different than just smarts, and it ripens through different influences, and different means. For this, the breadth of learning embodied in the humanities and social sciences is essential. They instill in students habits of mind and skills of analysis that transcend the present. They create the capacities to confront circumstances of life with a combination of realism and creativity. An alumnus in London described Harvard as having “handed him a looking glass,” an invaluable perspective that stretched beyond himself and yet at the same time cast his own life into new view. Another alum in Boston told me that a Harvard course called “Thinking About Thinking” continues to influence all that he does.

The humanities are where we find our bearings. Philosophy, ethics, history, literature enable students to think about their lives in context, to create their own spaces in a world defined by the complexity of the issues that challenge us.

We have seen in the press in recent weeks vivid examples of how the remarkable breakthroughs of science and technology require us to ask broader questions about society, culture, and the responsibilities of government. Privacy issues raised by the digital revolution cannot be answered by technology alone. That is, for example, why the Berkman Klein Center — expanded as part of this campaign — supports programs on the ethics and governance of artificial intelligence, on ethical frameworks for big data research, and on the many dilemmas raised by autonomous vehicles. 

Smart, and wise. In the end, smart functions like a magnet: the more concentrated our collection of smart thinkers, the more powerful our attraction to more smart thinkers. Wisdom, on the other hand, is a set of lenses through which we might view the world clearly, and deeply, even through the fog of technological change. This campaign has strengthened our magnet and widened our looking glass.

This campaign has fueled our restlessness, and deepened our pride.

Harvard has always nurtured restlessness and a sense of exploration. It was founded, after all, by settlers who’d ventured far from home in search of a new world. Through this campaign, we have created new pathways for connecting our students’ learning to activity in the world beyond campus, both locally and globally. No longer is thinking for now and doing for later.

More than 930 Harvard Business School students work and study abroad each year as part of FIELD: a requirement for M.B.A. candidates that places them in small teams around the world to help solve problems with partner organizations. The Law School has greatly expanded its clinical programs, and nearly 80 percent of last year’s graduates had participated in at least one clinic. The new Medical School curriculum places students into our hospitals from the very first day they arrive. And, in the College, more than 2,800 undergraduates have spent time studying or doing research abroad during their time at Harvard thanks to our donors. Two wonderful new gifts support public service opportunities and link internships to coursework. We are now far more able to match our students’ commitment to think with their urgent desire to do.

Doing also means making, and here, too, we have significantly expanded opportunities. 

Establishing engineering as its own school in 2007 has obviously been central, and the biggest gift to this campaign is the gift from John Paulson to endow the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. There are now three times as many students in the College concentrating in engineering as there were a decade ago, and there are a dozen new slots for computer sciences faculty. We eagerly anticipate the opening of the Science and Engineering Complex in Allston, which will put our commitment to discovery and creation on display — quite literally — as the state-of-the art Stefan Behnisch building will feature what we’re calling a “making lab,” which will be fully visible to the public from outside the building.

It is the same restless desire to make, to create, to be hands-on that has fueled not just engineering, but a revolution in the place of the arts at Harvard. The College now offers a concentration in Theater, Dance & Media, and we have expanded faculty in musical performance, creative writing, sculpture, and video installation, as well theater and dance. The Harvard Art Museums have been reimagined and reconstructed as a teaching machine, connecting art to coursework across the University. And alongside the entrepreneurial iLab, Launch Lab, and Pagliuca Life Lab in Allston, an Art Lab is taking shape. All are designed to capture creativity and translate it into the world, to encourage the imagination that builds a tangible link to the future.

Thanks to this campaign, our pride in what Harvard has long stood for has fueled a new belief in what Harvard can do. And our community’s restless desire to make, and build, and create — in the lab, on a canvas, at a drafting table — is being nurtured and encouraged in countless new ways.

This campaign has emboldened us, and reaffirmed our commitment to being thoughtful.

We are often told these days that progress comes from taking risks. I fear that Harvard’s history and age are sometimes regarded as evidence that we are stodgy and risk-averse. But I would argue our pre-eminence is in fact the result of taking thoughtful risks over centuries — the risk inherent in Harvard’s very founding only six years after the English settlement of Massachusetts Bay; the risk Charles William Eliot took in transforming Harvard from a college into a research university, the risk Lowell embraced in establishing the House system in face of objections and doubt; the risk Conant took in democratizing Harvard through his system of Harvard National Scholarships. Leadership is about boldly taking risks when risk-taking is called for, and it has been a foundation of Harvard’s greatness.

This campaign has enabled us to continue to be bold — in ways suited to this time, its needs, and its opportunities.

This campaign has supported a dramatic expansion in financial aid, so that now 20 percent of students in the College come from families with incomes of less than $65,000 a year, and pay no family contribution to tuition or room and board. The campaign has enabled us to reach more than 6 million learners across the globe through edX and HarvardX and to experiment with new forms of pedagogy through the Harvard Initiative for Teaching and Learning. It has enabled us to break down ancient intellectual barriers across the University and create new collaborations, courses, degree programs, and even fields. And this campaign has emboldened us to envision a campus in Allston that will nurture such connections across Schools and disciplines, as well as ties between Harvard, industry, and the wider Boston community.

This campaign has made us new, and allowed us to remain old, to both build on our history and compose our future. Nowhere is this more evident than in the very physical structures around us. The campaign has supported significant new construction — the Science and Engineering Complex now rising over Allston, the new Wexner, Ofer, and Rubenstein Buildings at the Harvard Kennedy School, teeming with students and faculty. And Tata Hall, Chao Center, and soon Klarman Hall at HBS. But it is notable that the campaign has also enabled a burst of renewal — the very word itself representing the union of old and new. House renewal envisions the renovation and re-imagination of the House system through the reconstruction of more than 1.4 million square feet of space in eight undergraduate Houses. And close your eyes and picture this: the magnificently restored and expanded Harvard Art Museums, with Renzo Piano’s lantern atop a structure itself both old and new. Or envision the Smith Campus Center, opening in the fall as the first real University-wide common space. Or Pritzker Commons welcoming us to the Science Center. Or Lavietes Gymnasium, where we gather to rock the roof in support of the Crimson. Or the Schlesinger Library and Knafel Center at Radcliffe, both to be reconfigured to strengthen the institute’s outreach. Or Andover Hall at the Divinity School, now slated for renewal as the hub of a School that has become a model of interfaith learning. 

When I think about these spaces, both the old and the new, so many of them are intended to bring us together in new ways, to enable us to fully realize the potential of being here and learning from one another, to build a community across the diversity of our origins, identities, talents, our fields of study and our different Schools. To be One Harvard.

This campaign has helped us remain great, and made us better at being good.

There’s no disputing it: Harvard is great. We are great because of the legacy that draws to our community those who want to lead and those who strive for excellence in all they do. You saw the brilliance of our faculty on stage here this afternoon. You see our alumni lead countries and companies and cabinet agencies. Maybe you attended the Harvard Law School anniversary event earlier this year, right on this stage, featuring six Supreme Court justices — each with a Harvard degree. We claim eight presidents of the United States. We celebrate countless Emmy and Oscar winners, even some Grammy winners. We hail the Nobel, Pulitzer, Breakthrough, and Holberg Prize winners, the MacArthur Geniuses on our faculty, and among our alumni. We congratulate our students as they are awarded Rhodes Scholarships, Marshall and Fulbright Scholarships.

The campaign has helped us sustain this greatness in several important ways; and here are just two: We have raised support for 130 professorships, which help us attract the great in every field and do all we can to keep them here despite fierce competition from peer institutions. And your generous commitments to financial aid in every School permits us to do the same for our students — recruit the very best.

Greatness begets more greatness, and that long Crimson line of excellence from those first students enrolled in 1636 to the 1,962 extraordinary individuals offered a coveted place in the Class of 2022 last week, this campaign has positioned us to keep gathering great minds and generating great scholarship.

Thanks to this campaign, Harvard will continue to set the standard for what it means to be a great university.

But what about good? 

We live in a time when people increasingly question who and what is good. Lack of trust is widespread, and lack of trust in institutions is particularly strong. And yet a world without trusted institutions — particularly a democracy — risks fractures that threaten its very survival.

We at Harvard are in the facts business. We produce experts, and we value expertise and we think that knowledge should guide decision-making. If we want to be listened to, if we want to be believed, we need to be trusted. To be trusted, we need to be trustworthy. And to be trustworthy, we need to be clear about our values. As Dov Seidman, HLS ’92, recently put it: “Sustainable values are what anchor us in a storm.”

So what is the compass that we steer by? Where is our North Star? What are the convictions that motivate all we do and bind us together as a community?

Let me endeavor to state it straight out: We believe in the pursuit of truth as our common purpose. We believe in the power of learning and discovery to enhance human capacity — and in our responsibility to develop that capacity to serve the world.

We believe in the value of every member of this community and in each person’s potential to contribute to the common good.

We believe that our diversity offers us the strongest possible foundation for our strength because it enables us to enrich, to educate, and to challenge one another. We believe in the obligations that each of us bears toward one another and toward something greater than ourselves. 

This campaign has encouraged us to assert these beliefs publicly, affirmatively. It has enabled us to support the work that links us together and projects our values and our value into the world. This happens in every School and every precinct of the University. We can find it in the work of the Harvard Chan School — named thanks to an extraordinary gift from Gerald Chan — as it improves health outcomes for entire populations by combatting scourges from opioids to obesity; we see it in Graduate School of Education’s commitment to learning to change the world through efforts like its Ed.L.D. degree or its new program for undergraduate Teacher Fellows; we see it in the Business School and its work on shared prosperity; we see it in the libraries’ digitization of more than 300,000 pages of rare documents in order to make the earliest history of North America available to anyone in the world with access to a computer. We find it in the Divinity School’s initiative on religious conflicts and peacemaking, in the Kennedy School’s commitment to making democracy work; in Law School students’ recent spring break programs in Boston, in Mississippi, and in Puerto Rico. Students from every School leave here ready and eager to contribute and serve.

These programs allow us to live our values — values that are fundamental to all we do. We have been reminded that we cannot take them for granted. We must not assume that our progress toward realizing them cannot be reversed. This campaign has allowed us to rededicate ourselves to their defense, and proclaim more boldly our fidelity to goodness as well as greatness.

I look forward to raising a glass with all of you this evening and toasting what we’ve accomplished together. But I want to close this afternoon by looking beyond tonight, to tomorrow.

Tomorrow, we will continue to be called upon to build trust in our actions, our words, and our purposes, to do good in the world. Tomorrow, we will endeavor to be that reliable compass that steers toward truth, towards Veritas. 

We are always learning, not just how to understand the world, but what to do with our understanding. I know that with your help Harvard can keep learning, keep being, keep doing. It can embrace both change and constancy. It can remain Harvard while still becoming Harvard. Smart, but also wise. Restless, as well as proud. Equal parts bold and thoughtful. At once both old and new. Committed to goodness as well as greatness. This was — this is — my wish for Harvard, our wish for Harvard. And this campaign has brought us closer to a wish come true.

The tensions between constancy and change are a good thing, a healthy thing. Any institution that has been committed to shaping the future, and future leaders, for as long as Harvard has, and as long as Harvard will, must embrace and master both. This is our inheritance. It must also be our legacy.

Others paved the way for the Harvard of today. Those of you who are gathered here, and the more than 150,000 other donors who have joined you in supporting Harvard so generously in this campaign — all of you have paved the way for the Harvard of tomorrow. If we sustain our responsibilities to both past and future and commit ourselves to advancing both our value and our values, we will model for a wary, skeptical world the importance of knowledge, the urgent necessity to be both thoughtful and daring, and the ability to be both great and good. You and those who have come before you have made this possible. You and those who follow you must continue to make it so.

Thank you.