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Jane Fonda Donates $12.5 Million to Launch Harvard Center on Gender and Education

The Harvard Graduate School of Education will establish the first comprehensive, interdisciplinary center at a major research university focusing on the role of gender in education, Dean Jerome T. Murphy announced today at a research summit on boys and men. A $12.5 million gift from Jane Fonda will allow HGSE to create the Harvard Center on Gender and Education, dedicated to exploring how children's development and learning are influenced by gender. The Center will be housed at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and will draw on intellectual resources from across the university, working with faculty who focus on gender from a broad range of academic perspectives.

"Jane Fonda's generous commitment offers Harvard an incomparable opportunity to examine, both domestically and globally, the issues that affect how boys and girls learn, and to develop ways to strengthen their resilience and academic growth," says Dean Murphy. "Worldwide, schooling and access to education remain the most powerful policy levers for improving children's life chances."

Fonda's interest grew from her involvement in initiatives that emphasized the advancement of girls and women in the U.S. and developing countries. "I recognized the need to bring some of these lessons home-- we still have a culture that teaches girls and boys a distorted view of what it takes to be women and men."

The Work of the Center

The Center's three-pronged approach will include sponsoring research; developing strategies and practices; and assisting teachers and other educators as they address gender issues in their schools and communities. Working closely with existing programs at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, such as the Urban Superintendents Program and the Teacher Education Program, the Center will draw on the intellectual resources of other professional schools and faculties at Harvard University.

"The Center will reinforce and extend the work of faculty across Harvard's schools and build on the historic research strengths of the School of Education and its tradition of influencing educational practice," says Harvard University Provost Harvey Fineberg.

Groundbreaking Research Inspires Gift

Fonda's $12.5 million gift includes $2.5 million for the creation of an endowed faculty chair to be named for renowned psychologist Carol Gilligan on her departure from the Harvard faculty, which will be in June 2002. The Patricia Albjerg Graham Professor of Gender Studies at HGSE, Gilligan will play an instrumental role in launching the new Center and will serve beyond 2002 as honorary chair of an advisory committee to the Center.

Gilligan's groundbreaking research on gender and human development, spanning the course of twenty years, opened up a new field of study and was the inspiration for Fonda's gift.

"I remember the moment when I noticed that women's voices were not part of the human conversation, and I felt an immense loss. Then I asked, how could this happen? I became interested in how men and women unconsciously collude with societies and cultures that have ruled out women's voices. That's when I began to look at how people over the millennia have found their way to change, and I realized that education is the nonviolent revolution," says Gilligan.

About the Harvard Graduate School of Education

Established in 1920, the Harvard Graduate School of Education has 24 tenured faculty members and grants approximately 600 degrees each year to doctoral, master's, and advanced study candidates. As a graduate school focused on understanding and improving educational practice, the School combines domestic and global expertise in both traditional disciplines including psychology, sociology, political science, anthropology, and history, and such educational fields as leadership, pedagogy, administration, and social policy.

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