Chinese businessman Gerald Chan explained the story behind his family foundation’s $350 million gift to Harvard’s School of Public Health on Monday.
The donation by his family’s Morningside Foundation is the largest Harvard has ever received and one of the largest ever given to an institute of higher education.
Chan said the donation was inspired by his mother’s volunteer work, vaccinating children in China in the 1950s. Chan’s mother, a nurse, administered vaccines to neighborhood children in the family kitchen, using the same needle repeatedly and disinfecting it in boiling water.
“As you can imagine, the needle was blunted by repeated use, so the injections got extraordinarily painful,” said the Hong Kong property developer. “It was no wonder that many children screamed and wailed in our kitchen.”
Chan said he was also inspired by his father’s decision to support the education of friends’ children overseas.
“In keeping with my mother’s work in improving people’s health and my father’s commitment to education, my brothers and I thought it most fitting to celebrate their legacy with a gift to Harvard School of Public Health,” he said.