HBS Gets Big Gift For First Gen Scholarships

Jonathan & Jeannie Lavine

Harvard Business School, which already hands out $34 million annually in MBA scholarships, will be able to be even more generous in the future. The school announced today (Sept. 11) that two former alums, have pledged a total of $12.5 million to support student fellowships at HBS. It is the largest amount ever donated to the school for scholarship aid.

Jonathan Lavine, co-managing partner of Bain Capital, and his wife, Jeannie, 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.  They met shortly after entering HBS in 1990,  had a couple of chance encounters before the start of classes, and Jonathan was immediately interested in knowing her better. He coaxed a mutual friend into making an introduction on the third day of orientation. They both graduated from HBS in 1992 and recently celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary. After graduating from HBS, Jeannie worked at Boston Consulting Group and Jonathan began his career at McKinsey before joining Bain Capital in 1993.

Harvard already dishes out more scholarship money than any other business school in the world. The school doled out an unprecedented $34 million last year, up from $32 million a year earlier. That increase brought the average annual fellowship per MBA student to a record $35,571, up 8% from $32,919 in 2015. The school disclosed today that in the 2016-17 academic year financial aid for MBAs rose again to $35 million.


The sticker price of an Harvard MBA isn’t cheap. Annual tuition alone, without additional fees and living expenses, now totals $72,000. For a single student entering this year, HBS estimates the total cost of a single year, including room and board, at $106,800. Because it takes two years to get a Harvard MBA, the total cost therefore is now $213,600.

HBS said that the largest component of the gift, $10 million, will go to the Lavine Family Fellowship Challenge Fund, to increase 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,” says HBS Dean Nitin Nohria in a statement. “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.”

Roughly half of the MBA students at Harvard 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.


“These gifts are the lifeblood of the institution,” explains Felix Oberholzer-Gee, senior associate dean of the MBA program, in a statement. “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 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,” says Jeannie Lavine in a statement accompanying the announcement. “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.  Jonathan Lavine also serves as vice chair of the Board of Trustees of Columbia University, where he and Jeannie have funded numerous aid programs.

Harvard notes that the couple’s philanthropic roots at the school 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,” says 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.”


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