… to schools like Harvard that already have hundreds of millions. There are far better recipients, in and outside of education, for that sort of money.

Yet she feels okay about one particular millionish gift to that university. In part this is because it’s not enormous — it’s ten million, which is a lot but not insane. In part it’s because it’s for the humanities (most of the hundred million plus gifts are for business schools, etc.). And in part because, when interviewed, the donor is eloquent on the importance of the humanities.

She’s still not thrilled that he gave so much to rolling-in-it Harvard (Now that Larry Summers is back on campus telling Harvard what to do with its endowment, the university will no doubt start losing tens of millions of dollars again. It can afford to.), but he does have his reasons.

When I went as an undergraduate, I was not permitted any foreign exchange by the [Reserve Bank of India] so Harvard gave me a full scholarship. I have never forgotten that.

And here he is on the larger reason:

I have intentionally chosen to contribute to a field that is universal, and which all students, regardless of their area of study, will benefit from. I would therefore hope that this gift will help show that India is not just concerned with parochial issues, but can give back, globally.

… The humanities encompass a spectrum of disciplines. What it does is teach you not a particular skill or technology but to think and question. Conflict resolution and creating a better world do not come from an improved piece of software or a better engine or technology but from people who can break free from their rigid points of view.

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One Response to “This blog has complained about people giving hundreds of millions …”

  1. david foster Says:

    Understand why he did it given his appreciation for what the institution did for him; still, if his main concern is promoting the liberal arts in India and throughout the world, I’d hope he’s reserved a substantial amount of his contribution budget for India and for non-Indian organizations that are less-well-known than Harvard. What fraction of the world’s population, even among those who will obtain higher education, will attend an Ivy League college? There are surely a few zeros after the decimal point in that number.

    Mahindra says–”Conflict resolution and creating a better world do not come from an improved piece of software or a better engine or technology but from people who can break free from their rigid points of view”…surely he knows from experience that the creation of better engines and better software *also* depends on people who can break free from rigid points of view.

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