John E. Irving family donation kick-starts Harvard GSD Campaign

Leadership Gift Supports The School’s Preeminence—
Innovation, Research, and Students

Cambridge, Massachusetts—The Harvard University Graduate School of Design (GSD) announced today that John K. F. Irving (AB ’83, MBA ’89, GSD Campaign Chair) and Anne Irving Oxley, have made a significant donation of $10 million to the School in honor of their father John E. (Jack) Irving.

This leadership gift will kick-start the Harvard Graduate School of Design’s campaign efforts with support for Dean Mohsen Mostafavi’s vision for the School by deepening and broadening the faculty’s intellectual reach, by lowering the barriers of cost to our students, and by responding to an evolving design pedagogy to bolster transdisciplinary scholarship and an ambitious research agenda. The John E. Irving family gift will enhance the School’s leadership position in 21st century design.

For the Irvings—longtime champions of the School who endowed a professorship in landscape architecture in 2008 to honor their father—the gift builds on a tradition of giving, reinforcing their commitment to the Harvard Graduate School of Design and honoring the John E. Irving family‘s dedication to both the built and natural environments.

John, who plays an active role in the life of both the School and the University, reflects upon the family’s intentions, “This gift is not about promoting a single program—this gift is about the future of the School, in a world facing increasingly complex challenges. We believe in the leadership of the Dean, the unmatched teaching and groundbreaking research of GSD faculty, and the capacity of the student body to make a real impact. Our gift supports this amazing place. It’s a gift to sustain the School’s preeminence.”

Carefully designed to provide both immediate impact and sustaining support, the John E. Irving family gift is spread across a broad spectrum of activities within the school, representing both endowed and current-use funds. The endowed portion includes three funds: the John E. (Jack) Irving Fellowships, bringing the very best students to the GSD with a preference for applicants from the Irving’s home country of Canada; the John E. (Jack) Irving Dean’s Innovation Fund, to build a cornerstone for the future by improving research funds for junior faculty, providing seed funding for University-wide collaborations, and supporting other new initiatives that the Dean considers to be central to the School’s mission; and the John E. (Jack) Irving Professorship in Landscape Architecture Faculty Support Fund to provide discretionary funds to support cutting-edge research on landscape architecture’s relationship with contemporary urbanism.

The current use funds committed to immediate impact are similarly distributed: the John E. (Jack) Irving Dean’s Innovation Fund, providing the Dean with immediate-use flexible funds to go directly to long-term and emerging priorities, including faculty whose work is research-driven to complement the School’s strengths in practice-based disciplines; funds to support the new undergraduate concentration in Architecture, linking the high energy and intense curiosity of undergraduates with the creative and imaginative perspectives that are the essence of design; and lastly, support for Gund Hall renovations which will help to achieve the School’s ambition to make transformative improvements to Gund Hall.  

Harvard Graduate School of Design Dean Mohsen Mostafavi expresses his gratitude to John Irving and Anne Oxley for their support and commitment to the School. “This extraordinary gift honors the memory of John E. Irving, reinforcing the family’s dedication to Harvard, and the GSD. Their support of the undergraduate concentration, of our students, and of our ambitious research agenda, reflects our shared commitment to the notion of One Harvard. The John E. Irving family’s generosity toward Harvard—not just to the School of Design, but to the College and the Business School—reflects this vision of a vibrant and collaborative university community.”

The Dean is delighted to have John leading the GSD’s campaign efforts and helping to imagine the school of the future, “Together, we envision a School that puts design at the center of Harvard life, creating societal impact that will reverberate worldwide. With a transdisciplinary, international, and speculative ethos, the School will address head on the complex social issues impacting our built environment – from the impact of rapid urbanization and disaster planning to the power of beauty and the impact of energy efficient environments. I join the entire GSD community in extending our gratitude to John, Anne, and their family for this generous gift. We are honored by their engagement.”

At Harvard, the Architecture and Landscape Architecture programs have existed since 1893 and 1900, respectively, and its City and Regional Planning and Urban Design programs were established in 1923 and 1960—all among the first programs of their kind in the nation. The Harvard Graduate School of Design was founded as a multidisciplinary design school in 1936, bringing together architecture, landscape architecture, urban and regional planning, and eventually adding urban design, and the advanced studies programs. The School has a holistic focus on the built environment, making the GSD distinct from its peer institutions. The Harvard Graduate School of Design’s pedagogic aspirations and the diversity of its faculty also make it an American institution with a strongly international outlook. Today, the GSD has secured a leadership position in University-wide collaborations, fostering an increasingly global outlook, and engaging faculty equally committed to research, pedagogy, and practice.  

John E. (Jack) Irving, along with his two brothers, managed the family businesses–focusing on Irving Oil–for over 50 years. Jack felt strongly about ecological and cultural conservation. Known as the builder in the family, Jack was an innovator who advanced efficiency in the workplace. He was inducted into the Canadian Business Hall of Fame and appointed a member of the Order of Canada, leaving a true legacy as a beloved and well-respected businessperson.

John Irving, President Drew Faust, and Dean Mohsen Mostafavi

John K. F. Irving, is President of Ocean Capital Investments, a holding company for the families’ businesses in real estate, construction, energy, and others areas, based in Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada. John is currently Co-Chair of the GSD Campaign Committee while holding seats on both the University Campaign Planning Committee, and the Committee on University Resources. From 2009-2012, he sat on the Dean’s Advisory Council at the GSD. During this tenure, John became well-acquainted with Dean Mostafavi, building a powerful and impactful relationship anchored in a shared view of what the world needs and what the GSD can provide.

Anne Irving Oxley, who studied in the School’s summer Career Discovery Program before embarking on her design education, holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Toronto ’93 and a Master of Landscape Architecture from University of Guelph (Ontario) ’98. Anne is a Director at Ocean Capital Investments in New Brunswick and shares her father’s passion for landscape and the environment.

For more information:

Benjamin Prosky
Assistant Dean for Communications
Harvard Graduate School of Design
(617) 496-1069
[email protected]