Jan. 5, 1995
Vol. 14, No. 9

current issue
archive / search

    Harris gives $5 million to Public Policy School

    Chicago civic leader and philanthropist Irving B. Harris has made an additional $5 million challenge gift to the public policy school that bears his name. The contribution brings to $25 million his total giving to the University.

    "This gift is really meant as a challenge to those who care about public policy and its impact on the challenges facing our society," Harris said. "My intention is to encourage others to join me in continuing to attract outstanding young people to this field. It is crucial that we prepare the most talented young people for careers in public policy and that we support the research that helps us understand and address society's deepest problems."

    President Sonnenschein welcomed the gift, saying, "We are deeply grateful for Irving Harris' extraordinary generosity. I know how carefully he thinks through his commitments. He designs them to have the maximum impact on programs that will be of the greatest benefit to society. He cares passionately about excellence. These qualities make his support doubly meaningful."

    The school was named in Harris' honor in 1990 in recognition of his initial contribution of $10 million for its support. Harris said that the Irving B. Harris Graduate School of Public Policy Studies, now six years old, already has exceeded his original expectations.

    "At the time the Harris School was established, I hoped we would attract many outstanding young students. We certainly have. The Harris School has proved itself. It is a great institution in a great university.

    "It has distinguished itself in the research produced by its scholars, in the superlative quality of the faculty, and in the high quality and number of students it has attracted from around the country. The school has already surpassed my early expectations," he said.

    The new Harris gift will support the work of younger faculty, fund student fellowships and support interdisciplinary projects with public policy school research fellows of the University's Center for Clinical Medical Ethics.

    With Harris' gift, the total for the University's Campaign for the Next Century stands at $446 million. The campaign is a five-year effort to raise $500 million by 1996 to lay the foundation for the University's second century.

    In addition to Harris' commitment of $15 million to the public policy school, he has given $10 million in other gifts to the University, principally in support of programs in early childhood development, child psychiatry and medical ethics.

    Harris said that he hopes his latest gift of $5 million, which will be paid out over the next 10 years, will be matched by new endowment raised for the school during that time. He has added a specific challenge to the fellowship component of the gift: a one-to-one match, with the matching donor able to name the fellowship fund. He has specified $3 million of the gift to support the operations of the school.

    Harris made the initial gift in 1986 that led to the founding of the school. Since its inception, the Harris School has brought together researchers from economics, sociology, medicine, law, divinity, political science and business to address issues of policy in such areas as child and family welfare, education, job training, health, international affairs, and urban poverty and inequality.

    The Harris School provides multidisciplinary training for exceptionally able students interested in public problems. "One of the reasons I helped found the Harris School was that so many talented young people were going into lucrative jobs in law or on Wall Street," Harris said. "We can't afford to have all of our brightest young people diverted from public service. We need some of the best working in public policy.

    "Problems like poverty are not preordained. Poverty is a problem created by man. If we really want to, we can solve it. But the skills needed to solve our problems -- welfare, homelessness, finding people jobs -- don't come without thought or practice.

    "We must use the tools at our disposal, including education and research in public policy, to begin to understand the causes of social failure and weed them out. Human motivation and social organization should not be insoluble mysteries, nor should it be beyond our talents to organize our society to eradicate the malignancy of permanent poverty and deprivation," he said.

    Harris, a Chicago business executive, has devoted much of his life to helping advance projects that seek solutions to major societal problems.

    Harris has long been active in charitable and public-interest organizations. In 1982, he organized the Ounce of Prevention Fund, a public-private partnership with the State of Illinois that develops and monitors programs aimed at preventing family dysfunction, including child abuse and neglect. He currently serves as the organization's president.

    He is also founder and president emeritus of the Erikson Institute, which trains teachers in childhood development.

    He was a member of the National Commission on Children, Subcommittee on Education and Child Development (Committee for Economic Development) and continues to serve in the Partnership for Children of the American Academy of Pediatrics and as chairman of the Associates of the Yale Child Study Center.