Jane Fonda has donated $12.5 million for the establishment of an interdisciplinary research center at Harvard University’s graduate school of education—the largest personal donation the school has ever received.
The Harvard Center on Gender and Education will specialize in exploring the effect that gender has on the learning and development of children.
“It will be built on the great work that’s already going on here at the school,” Jerome T. Murphy, the dean of the graduate school, said of the gift from the actress. “Jane Fonda’s generous commitment offers Harvard an incomparable opportunity to examine, both domestically and globally, the issues that affect how boys and girls learn, and to develop ways to strengthen their resilience and academic growth.”
The center’s initial goals will be to sponsor research, devise teaching strategies and practices, and help educators address gender issues within schools and communities, Mr. Murphy said.
“There are no real limitations on what the center can do,” added Christine Sanni, a spokeswoman for the graduate school. “It will draw from almost every academic aspect of the university. This means, for example, that the medical school might apply for gender research that involves the treatment of boys with [attention deficit disorder]. “
“Jane Fonda did make one thing very clear,” Ms. Sanni said. “She didn’t want the program to become a white, ivory-tower think tank. The program is, therefore, designed to influence actual practices and assist students.”
Ms. Fonda, who has worked on behalf of teenage-pregnancy-prevention efforts in Atlanta, initiated the project last spring when she spoke at the university about the challenges faced by young women in education and the widespread efforts made to give women equal access to education abroad.
She challenged Mr. Murphy to build a research base at the university and offered to underwrite the project. “I recognized the need to bring some of these lessons home,” Ms. Fonda said last week in a statement. “We still have a culture that teaches girls and boys a distorted view of what it takes to be women and men.”
Though Ms. Fonda had no formal affiliation with the university, she chose to donate money to the school in part because she was inspired by the work of the psychologist Carol Gilligan, a member of the graduate school faculty who has conducted extensive research on gender issues. Ms. Gilligan will help in the formation of the center.
To honor Ms. Gilligan’s work, $2.5 million will go toward the creation of an endowed faculty chair in her name and an administrative support staff, according to Mr. Murphy.
A version of this article appeared in the March 07, 2001 edition of Education Week as Fonda Gives Harvard Ed. School $12 Million