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Ed. Magazine

Women on a Mission

Donors support the school
Linda Hammett Ory, Mindy Munger, Christina Capodilupo, Jennifer Ngar Wing Yu

Fiscal year 2022 was a record-breaker. Not only was it the school’s most successful fundraising year to date — with $88.23 million in donations — it was a year when female graduates gave back to the school like never before.

For Linda Hammett Ory, Ed.M.'93, giving back was an easy decision. She made her mark with a $10 million gift to financial aid, the largest ever from an alumna. “I really see myself in these students. Even with financial aid, I had to come up with a huge chunk of money and thought I’d be paying off student loans for the rest of my life. I never dreamed I’d be in a position to give back like this. It’s truly a privilege,” she says.

We sat down with four alumnae who made transformational gifts to see what inspired them to give back, including (pictured, top to bottom) Hammett Ory; Mindy Sick Munger, Ed.M.'01, Ed.D.'12; Christina Capodilupo, Ed.M.'02; and Jennifer Ngar Wing Yu, Ed.M.'22.

Why was giving important?

MSM: The faculty and students are an incredible group of people who could choose to do anything with their lives, and they have chosen education as their career. I want to support that choice and help students become teachers with as little debt as possible while driving change in the field more broadly through critical research and innovative programs.

JNWY: I hope to afford educators the opportunity to further their own important work in education. At HGSE, we are taught from day one to “Learn to Change the World,” to take your Harvard education forward to make a positive, tangible impact.

CC: HGSE represents the place where my educational journey really started. It was the first time in my academic life when I realized that I had meaningful questions about cultural identities and their role in education and self-concept, and that I could devote future study to learning more.

LHO: I want to invest in people who devote their lives to education and ensure that talented people don’t have to make the decision not to teach because of debt.

What do you want your gift to help accomplish?

CC: My husband [Harry Schwefel] and I are passionate about educational access. Having an online master’s degree at HGSE — offering the incredible resources of faculty, coursework, and colleagues to those all around the country (and the world) who cannot move to Cambridge — is an extremely exciting prospect.

LHO: By removing financial constraints, HGSE can have a more culturally rich student body with openness of thought and dialogue. It’s vitally important that we have more diversity in all areas of education — from teaching to leadership — and that teachers reflect the population of the students that they are teaching.

MSM: Supporting HGSE in attracting talented people into teaching, providing them with an excellent preparation program, and sharing best practices with the field of education, feels like one of the most powerful ways we can contribute to society.

How did HGSE influence you?

LHO: HGSE was essential to my career transformation from performing artist to children’s media producer. A key skill I learned was understanding the right questions to ask. Gerry Lesser (my adviser and Sesame Street founder) stressed, “What are this technology’s capabilities?” and “Is your program teaching what you intended?” Ceasar McDowell probed, “What are the components of community, and can they be implemented in technology-enhanced learning?” I still ask these questions in various settings; they never fail to reveal interesting answers!

JNWY: The incredibly enriching experience at HGSE inspired and motivated me to sharpen my leadership lens and take my interpretation of leadership to new heights.

MSM: I was enthralled to find a passionate group of incredibly smart and driven professionals wanting to improve our system of educating young people. This includes faculty who taught my courses and my fellow students. As I launched into my career, HGSE gave me knowledge, skills, relationships, and inspiration to succeed in a complicated and critically important line of work.

Cheriese Chambers is senior director of development communications

Ed. Magazine

The magazine of the Harvard Graduate School of Education

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