John Hobbs, a longtime supporter of education and the Ed School died on Sunday, January 3. A member of HGSE's Dean's Council, a former member of the Visiting Committee, and cochair of the last capital campaign, Hobbs, with his late wife Elisabeth, dedicated more than 20 years of service to the Harvard Graduate School of Education. "With the passing of John Hobbs, I have lost a mentor and HGSE has lost one of its dearest friends. We are grateful for the legacy that John, and his late wife, Liz, have left through their philanthropy," commented Dean Kathleen McCartney. "I especially appreciate their dedication to fellowship support of our talented students. There is much I will miss -- John's wise counsel on strategy, his appreciation for the role of education in transforming lives, and especially his laugh."
In the following article -- originally run in the summer 2006 issue of Ed. magazine -- the Hobbses' dedication to both education and the Ed School is clear:
Supporting the Education of Educators
Elisabeth and John Hobbs know the value of a good public education
system. But they acknowledge that things have changed since the 1940s
and '50s, when they attended public schools--she in Winnetka, Illinois,
and he in Newton, Massachusetts.
"There is a consensus in
this country that improving public education is necessary for
successfully meeting the challenges of the 21st century," says John
Hobbs (Harvard '60, HBS '65). Efforts to address it are underway at all
levels of government, and many philanthropists are making large
contributions to the effort, Hobbs added, "but it is essential the
leading graduate schools of education, like HGSE, gather more resources
to make a greater contribution to this complex issue."
Hobbses have long focused their volunteer efforts on education and
cochaired the school's last capital campaign, which far exceeded its
goal. "I've been saying for years," says Liz Hobbs, Ed.M.'61, "that I
think the Ed School is the absolute gem of the University. It doesn't
get appropriate recognition for what an extraordinary school it is.
It's got outstanding students, an outstanding faculty, and outstanding
programs. It's not just a place that is putting teachers into
classrooms. It's so much broader, when you consider the Urban
Superintendents Program, the professional-development programs, and so
many others. It also plays an important role in educational research and in the development and articulation of educational philosophies."
Hobbses have supported the school in their role as volunteers as well
as financially, with cumulative gifts in excess of $5 million. Their
most recent gift of $600,000 to the Ed School benefited from the
University's relatively new cross-credit program that permits alumni of
the business school, the law school, and Harvard College who wish to
give $100,000 or more to apply the money to one of the public service
schools while still counting the gift toward the annual drive of their
"It's awfully hard for people not to
want to give to their class," John Hobbs says. "But these schools--the
Divinity School, the School of Public Health, and, of course,
HGSE--also need more resources. This program makes it easier for people
in the Harvard community to provide support to these very important
schools, without having to choose not to support their class."
than 80 percent of the Hobbs' most recent gift went to support
fellowships for HGSE students. "Most graduate students finance much of
their education with loans," John says, "but a teacher or principal has
a much tougher time repaying those loans than a lawyer or
businessperson would. We need to make it more possible for exceptional
prospects to attend HGSE by alleviating the massive hurdle they face if
they have to finance their own graduate education."
gift is a significant contribution toward the Ed School's broader
efforts to increase financial aid and fellowship opportunities for
students. Education is a field where value to society is not reflected
in income, so it is important for HGSE to establish prestigious
fellowships and abundant financial aid opportunities in order to enroll
the highest caliber students--students who, as Hobbs says, might
otherwise opt for business, law, or medical school. "For the past two
decades, John and Liz Hobbs have been pacesetters for HGSE, enabling
the school to tackle its most important priorities," says William
McKersie, associate dean for development and alumni relations. "Their
unrestricted support for fellowships, which will be known as Hobbs
Fellowships, will boost our strategic move to attract the best talent
to the profession of education."
The remaining $100,000
of the Hobbs' gift supports the research of Hobbs Professor Howard
Gardner, who is the first to hold the John H. and Elisabeth A. Hobbs
Chair of Education and Cognition.
"I'm honored to be the
first occupant of the chair the Hobbses endowed," Gardner says. "Even
when times are difficult at HGSE, the Hobbses are always coming to
visit, keeping in touch, attending functions. They have an extremely
caring attitude toward the school and have done a great deal to connect
the Ed School with other parts of the University." Given the small size
and meager endowment of HGSE and the knowledge and talent that other
faculties at Harvard can provide, such linkages are crucial.
almost 40 years, Gardner has been associated with the HGSE-based
research group Project Zero, which endeavors to understand and enhance
learning, thinking, and creativity in the arts, humanities, and
sciences at both individual and institutional levels. He is also the
cofounder of the GoodWork Project, which examines how professionals
carry out work that is not only of high quality but is socially
responsible. The Hobbses' most recent contribution "will help us look
at GoodWork beyond the United States," says Gardner, noting that
research has begun in Scandinavia and the United Kingdom. It will also
allow Gardner to continue working on the GoodWork Toolkit, which
encourages secondary-school students to think about the consequences of
their work for others.
Finally, the gift will expand the
role of "trust, trustworthiness, and trustees" in the promotion of
GoodWork. Trustees, Gardner explains, are people who are well-known,
widely respected, and nonpartisan. "The Hobbses," he adds, "are
trustees in that sense."