Cornell University: $10M gift to A&S boosts College Scholar Program, scholarships

A $10 million gift from Robert S. Harrison ’76 will enhance the College Scholar Program in the College of Arts and Sciences and support undergraduate scholarships.

Harrison, chair of the Cornell Board of Trustees and former CEO of the Clinton Global Initiative, was a College Scholar during his time at Cornell, where he pursued an interdisciplinary program of study centered on government and psychology and went on to win a Rhodes scholarship.

“The College Scholar Program defined my undergraduate academic experience,” Harrison said, “and I hope this gift will allow future undergraduates to make at least as much of the opportunity as I did, for many years to come.”

The gift will designate the College Scholar Program as the Robert S. Harrison College Scholar Program, expanding support and funding for student research and summer experiences, creating new connections to Cornell’s New York City campuses and increasing scholarship funds available to undergraduates in A&S.

“We are so grateful to Bob for this gift to strengthen a program that played such a major role in his life, and in the lives of generations of Cornellians,” said President Martha E. Pollack. “The College Scholar Program is a transformative one for so many of our students, and we look forward to increasing its impact within the College of Arts and Sciences through this gift.”

Harrison College Scholars design their own interdisciplinary majors, organized around a question or issue of interest, and pursue courses of study that cannot be found in an established major. They work closely with faculty and program advisers to choose their classes and design independent senior projects, usually culminating in an honors thesis. They also take part in a sophomore research methods seminar, weekly writing hours and various group events.

“The Robert S. Harrison College Scholar Program is the epitome of a liberal arts education and a crown jewel of Cornell,” said Ray Jayawardhana, the Harold Tanner Dean of Arts and Sciences. “Bob’s service to and impact on the university cannot be overstated, and this naming of such an important and signature program that embodies our founding ethos is a fitting legacy for a most committed leader, volunteer and advocate.”

Michael Goldstein, professor of psychology and faculty director of the Harrison College Scholar Program, said the gift will not only help expand support for student research, it will enable faculty leaders to bring in more outside speakers and increase the socioeconomic diversity of students in the program.

“These are things we’ve been talking about for a long time, but we just needed the funding to put the details to the dreams,” he said.

The gift naming the Harrison College Scholar Program is one of many ways Harrison has supported Cornell over the years as a major benefactor. His first major gift, in 1999, created the Stanley and Bernice Harrison Scholarship, named for his parents, to provide financial assistance for students in A&S. He also endowed the directorship of the Institute for the Social Sciences in 2005 and the Hans Bethe House’s Dale R. Corson House Professor-Deanship in 2009. In 2013, Harrison made a lead gift toward the construction of the Cornell Health facility.

Harrison has led the Cornell Board of Trustees since 2012 and will step down on July 1 of this year.

While at Cornell, Harrison served as a student trustee from 1975 to 1976. He received a B.A./M.A. in politics, philosophy and economics in 1978 from the University of Oxford, where he was a Rhodes scholar, and a J.D. in 1981 from Yale Law School. As a lawyer at the firm Davis Polk & Wardwell, Harrison practiced corporate law in New York City and Paris. He is also a retired partner and managing director at the Goldman Sachs Group, where he served as co-head of the global communications, media and entertainment group in the investment banking division.

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