BOSTON—Jeannie and Jonathan Lavine (both MBA 1992) have pledged a total of $12.5 million to support student fellowships at Harvard Business School (HBS), the largest amount ever donated to the School for scholarship aid, and the HBS Fund. Jonathan currently serves as co-managing partner of Bain Capital, one of the world’s largest private investment firms.
The largest component of the gift, $10 million, will go to the Lavine Family Fellowship Challenge Fund, to increase significantly the impact of this gift by engaging and motivating others to make donations in support of the School’s scholarship needs. Additionally, the gift will endow, at $1 million each, the Lavine Family Fellowship and the Herbert J. Bachelor Fellowship, the latter named in honor of Jeannie’s father (MBA 1968), while $500,000 will go to the HBS Fund to be used for various School priorities.
“Fellowships provide the gift of possibility,” said Harvard Business School Dean Nitin Nohria. “For many students, being admitted to Harvard Business School becomes a reality only when they know there is financial support available to make it possible for them to attend. We are so very grateful to Jeannie and Jonathan for this extraordinary gift, which will impact the lives of generations of our students for decades to come.”
Approximately fifty percent of Harvard MBA students receive financial aid from the School each year. HBS is committed to a merit-based admissions policy, meaning that applicants’ financial resources are not considered during the admissions process. Once students are admitted, fellowships are granted based solely on their financial need. HBS provided $35 million in financial aid to MBA students in the 2016-17 academic year.
“These gifts are the lifeblood of the institution,” said Prof. Felix Oberholzer-Gee, Senior Associate Dean of the MBA Program. “They allow us to focus exclusively on filling our classrooms with the very best students. Our learning community is enriched by diversity in all its forms, and the fellowships we offer make it possible to bring people here from all walks of life around the globe.”
The Lavines have specified that where possible, the fellowships should be made available to students who are the first in their families to go to college, in tribute to Jeannie’s father, Herbert Bachelor, 73, who was the first in his family to go to college, graduating from both Harvard College and Harvard Business School. While at Harvard College, he worked 40 hours a week to cover expenses, but still accumulated a large amount of debt, a sum that grew even bigger while he earned his MBA. Jeannie followed her father’s academic path, earning an AB from Harvard College in 1988 and an MBA from HBS in 1992.
“It was his dream to have his own children be able to attend college without the stress of holding down a job or the added burden of student debt upon graduation,” said Jeannie Lavine. “He was able to make that dream come true for my siblings and me, and Jonathan and I would like to pay that forward and give other people the same opportunity, especially those who are the first in their family to attend college. We know that intellect is not distributed based on income, and neither should a top education.”
The Lavines have focused a significant portion of their philanthropic efforts toward leveling the playing field for individuals and families, with a particular focus on access to quality educational opportunities. They are long-time supporters of City Year, where Jonathan serves as chair of the national Board of Trustees, an organization focused on stemming the high school dropout rate in urban centers across the U.S. They’ve also provided major support to uAspire, an organization focused on providing financial resources to attain a postsecondary education, and LIFT, a national nonprofit focused on breaking the cycle of intergenerational poverty, and the Anti-Defamation League, an organization that works to end hate crimes and promote fair treatment for all. Jonathan Lavine also serves as vice chair of the Board of Trustees of Columbia University, where he and Jeannie have funded numerous aid programs.
The couple’s philanthropic roots at Harvard also run deep. In 2011, they established the Lavine Family Cornerstone Scholarship Fund, which supports four undergraduates through Harvard’s financial aid program. In 2012, they established the Lavine Family Humanitarian Studies Initiative at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, which supports the training and education of humanitarian relief workers. And in 2013, they became co-chairs of that School’s capital campaign. Both Jeannie and Jonathan serve on dean’s advisory boards at HBS and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, where they also co-chair the School’s capital campaign.
“We’re proud to support the work of great academic institutions, because we know first-hand the impact they can have on the world,” said Jonathan Lavine. “There is no greater way to improve someone’s future than giving them access to high quality, postsecondary education. We spent a great deal of time discussing with Dean Nohria our passion for education and how inspired we are by my father-in-law’s journey and appreciative of the opportunity our parents provided us. As a result, we decided that this is the best way to bring those interests together.”
Jeannie and Jonathan met shortly after entering HBS in 1990. As Jonathan describes it, the two had a couple of chance encounters before the start of classes, and he was immediately interested in knowing her better. He coaxed a mutual friend into making an introduction on the third day of orientation, and the rest is history. After graduating from HBS, Jeannie worked at Boston Consulting Group and Jonathan began his career at McKinsey before joining Bain Capital in 1993. The couple recently celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary and reside in Lexington, MA. They have two daughters.