Gerald Chan of Hong Kong’s Hang Lung Properties became the biggest donor ever to Harvard University on Monday, when the Massachusetts-based institution announced that Chan would be making a $350 million gift to the university’s school of public health.
The gift by Chan, who is the younger brother of Hang Lung chairman Ronnie Chan and a non-executive director of the developer, is the third major gift by a Chinese property developer to America’s wealthiest university in the last year.
In return for the gift, which was arranged through the Chan brothers’ Morningside Foundation, Harvard will be renaming its public health school as the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, according to an article in the Harvard Crimson. The late TH Chan, who was the father of Ronnie and Gerald Chan, established Hang Lung as a force in Hong Kong’s property world during the 1960s.
Gerald Chan earned two degrees at the School of Public Health in the 1970s and resides near the school. Together with his brother, Gerald Chan is said to hold Hong Kong’s 17th largest fortune, estimated at $3 billion.
Chan inherited wealth from his father, which has expanded through his holdings in Hang Lung, as well as through investments by the Morningside Group, a venture capital firm founded by the Chan brothers. Morningside was among the early investors in Chinese smart phone maker Xiaomi, which was already valued at $10 billion more than one year ago.
Harvard Becoming Property Developers’ Favorite Target
During the past year Harvard, which has the largest endowment in the US with an estimated value of $32.7 billion, has already been the beneficiary of much attention from real estate developers active on China’s mainland.
In December last year the university announced that it would be receiving a gift of “university-wide, interdisciplinary support” from Evergrande Real Estate Group, the property developer owned by billionaire Xu Jiayin (Hui Ka Yan in Cantonese), who is said by Forbes to be China’s 13th richest person.
While no monetary amounts were announced for Evergrande’s gifts, the funds were sufficent to support the creation of the Harvard Center for Green Buildings and Cities at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, the Evergrande Center for Immunologic Diseases at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and the Center for Mathematical Sciences and Applications in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
Then during July this year celebrity real estate couple Zhang Xin and Pan Shiyi funnelled $15 million to the Ivy League school through their Soho China foundation. The founders of commercial developer Soho China earmarked their gift for setting up a scholarship fund for Chinese students.
Even the chairman of the mainland’s biggest developer, Wang Shi of Vanke, paid his respects to Harvard, taking time off from building houses to spend some time at the university as a scholar-in-residence during 2012 and 2013.