Education Funding

Harvard, Fonda Drop Plans For Center on Gender Studies

By Michelle Galley — February 12, 2003 1 min read

Harvard University’s graduate school of education has announced plans to scrap a new center for gender studies that was to be underwritten by a multimillion-dollar gift from the actress and social activist Jane Fonda.

In fall 2001, Ms. Fonda pledged $12.5 million to the university, which would have been the largest personal gift ever to the education school. A large portion of the $6.5 million she gave at that time will be returned, said Margaret R. Haas, a spokeswoman for the school.

The choice to end the project and discontinue the gift “was a mutual decision, and the predominant factor is the downturn in the economy,” said Ms. Haas, who declined to disclose exactly how much the school would return.

Ms. Fonda had reportedly complained that the university was taking too long to establish the center and appoint a chair, criticisms that Harvard disputes. She could not be reached for comment.

Stock Troubles

Plans for a $2.5 million endowed chair have also been discontinued, Ms. Haas said. That position was to have been financed with interest generated from stock investments made with Ms. Fonda’s initial contribution. But the stock did not perform as well as expected, and thus did not generate enough income, according to Ms. Haas.

In addition, the value of Ms. Fonda’s personal stocks, which according to newspaper reports were heavily invested in AOL/Time Warner, have decreased significantly with the downturn in the stock market. Because of the state of her personal finances, Ms. Fonda was not financially able to satisfy all the terms of her donation, Ms. Haas said.

A portion of Ms. Fonda’s initial gift will be used to subsidize research on gender in education, Ms. Haas said. That research project will eventually be used to design curricula focusing on gender equity in K-12 classrooms.

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