"There is so much in our world that is changing and evolving, and as a result there is a great need to synthesize theoretical ethical understanding and practical wisdom. I am fascinated by the issues the Fellows examine, ranging from questions about social disadvantage, international security, religion in society, and privacy, to the nuances of the ways our societies should best be structured. In taking timeless concepts and applying them to present-day situations, the Fellows will have a profound impact on society."
Lily Safra, Chair, Edmond J. Safra Philanthropic Foundation
The Edmond J. Safra Philanthropic Foundation
The connection between the Edmond J. Safra Philanthropic Foundation and the Ethics Center has deep roots. Early gifts helped establish the Edmond J. Safra Graduate Fellowships in Ethics and the Edmond J. Safra Faculty Fellowship in Ethics. In June 2004, a gift of $10 million, initiated by Mrs. Lily Safra - chair of the Foundation and widow of Edmond J. Safra - provided support for the Center's core activities, including faculty and graduate student fellowships, faculty and curricular development, and interfaculty collaboration.
In 2010, following the appointment of Center director Lawrence Lessig, Mrs. Safra once again acknowledged the importance of the Center's mission with an extraordinary gift of $12.3 million. Given in memory of her husband, Edmond, Mrs. Safra not only seized the opportunity to build upon Dennis Thompson's legacy, but recognized the significance of the role that new research plays in the Center's development. The gift ensured that the Center's work will become even more relevant in the future.
Mrs. Lily Safra has been a constant friend of the Center, as well as its principal benefactor. From the beginning, she recognized the importance of the Center's mission, both at Harvard and beyond, and encouraged its activities both financially and with her presence. She has been indispensible in bringing the Center to this new milestone in its history. Mrs. Safra's late husband, Edmond J. Safra, for whom the Foundation is named, was a prominent international banker and a dedicated philanthropist who supported a number of universities and charitable institutions in the US and around the world.
The Estate of Lester Kissel
In April 2001, the Center received a bequest of $12 million from the estate of the late Lester Kissel, for many years an attorney in the New York firm of Seward & Kissel. The bequest helped establish the Lester Kissel Presidential Fund for Ethics, the income from which supports part of the core activities of the Center, including faculty and graduate student fellowships, faculty and curricular development, and interfaculty collaboration. A smaller fund is devoted to "initiatives in ethics that reach beyond the traditional classroom and that seek to improve, in this country and abroad, the moral character of men and women not only in the professions but in all walks of life." In 2006, this fund enabled the Center to establish the Lester Kissel Grants in Practical Ethics. These provide summer grants to Harvard undergraduates who are working on ethics-related projects.
"Lester Kissel had the vision, from the beginning of our Center's mission, to see the value of the study of practical ethics. His wise counsel and steady support through the years, culminating in his extraordinary bequest, ensures that the Center will continue to flourish, and the Fellows, faculty and students who will benefit from his gift will be better able to pursue the ideals of moral leadership and public service that he cared about so deeply."
Dennis F. Thompson, from his tribute to Lester Kissel, March 2001
American Express Foundation
With the help of a $1.5 million gift from the American Express Foundation, the Center began a project to give ethics issues a more prominent place in the curriculum of Harvard College. The goal was to encourage faculty to introduce serious ethical study into undergraduate courses, including those in which ethical questions had not usually been emphasized. More than 50 new or revised courses in 20 different disciplines were developed, including anthropology, biology, comparative literature, economics, political science, religion, and sociology. The courses help students to confront ethical questions prior to entering professional schools and embarking on their chosen careers.
Eugene P. Beard
In 1990, Eugene P. Beard, then vice chairman for finance and operations at the Interpublic Group of Companies, provided support for the first named graduate fellowships in the Center. Memorializing Mr. Beard's father, the Eugene P. Beard Graduate Fellowships in Ethics helped support ten Graduate Fellows in Ethics. From 2001 through 2007, an additional gift helped fund the Eugene P. Beard Faculty Fellowship in Ethics, the first named Faculty Fellowship. Beard, who is a member of the Center's Advisory Council, continues to serve as Chairman and CEO of Westport Asset Fund, which he founded in 1983.
John L. Casey
The Center received several gifts in support of its core activities from the late John L. Casey, a graduate of Harvard College (1945), Harvard Law School (1948), and the author of two books on business ethics.
Michael A. Cooper
Annual gifts to support the core activities of the Center have been received from Michael A. Cooper, a partner in Sullivan & Cromwell, one of the country's preeminent law firms. Mr. Cooper has served on the Center's Advisory Board since its inception in 2000.
Robert D. Joffe
Robert D. Joffe, the Presiding Partner at the New York law firm of Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP, committed his reunion gift to the Center to support core activities. Mr. Joffe has been a member of the Center's Advisory Council since its inception in 2000.
The Center received several gifts in support of its core activities from Daniel Steiner, former General Counsel and Vice President at Harvard. Mr. Steiner spent a year in the Center as a Visiting Scholar in 1992-93. Until his death in 2006, he served as President of the New England Conservatory.