A major gift from the Poorvu family will establish a permanent endowment for the Yale Center for Teaching and Learning, covering the center’s operational costs and supporting its future programming, the University announced on Nov. 19.
The center will now be called the Poorvu Center for Teaching and Learning in recognition of the gift from William Poorvu ’56 and his wife, Lia Poorvu, and their children Alison Poorvu Jaffe ’81 and Jonathan Poorvu ’84.
In a joint statement to the News, Deputy Provost Scott Stroebel, the center’s executive directors Lucas Swineford and Jennifer Frederick and the center’s communications officer Patrick O’Brien, said that the gift was “an honor” and that “this type of recognition is a once-in-a-lifetime event.”
“The generous gift from the Poorvu family is a sign of confidence in the success of the Poorvu Center as a unified hub for teaching and learning,” said the statement. “An endowment to support the center provides security and ensures that we will be able to continue supporting teaching and learning in the future.”
The statement did not directly respond to the News’ questions about the gift’s amount.
The Center, established in 2014, “provide[s] training, consultations, and resources designed to make teaching and learning more public and collaborative,” according to its website.
In 2017, the center moved into its current 24,000 square foot space in Sterling Library.
“An endowment to support the center provides security and ensures that we will be able to continue supporting teaching and learning in the future,” Frederick said.
The Poorvu family’s gift to the center is not the first time the Poorvu family has supported teaching and learning at Yale. In 1991, William and Lia Poorvu created the Poorvu Family Fund for Academic Innovation, which funds summer research ventures conducted by junior faculty members who demonstrate excellence in teaching.
William Poorvu, an adjunct professor in entrepreneurship emeritus at Harvard Business School, and Lia Poorvu, a former French lecturer at Tufts, have a combined 80 years of teaching at institutions of higher education. In 1982, Bill Poorvu co-founded the Baupost Group, one of the largest hedge funds in the world with assets totaling over $30 billion.
The Poorvus have also donated to other universities. Their philanthropic fund, the William J. and Lia G. Poorvu Foundation, has donated money to both Wellesley College and Harvard University, according to publicly available records.
Both William and Lia Poorvu have served on the Yale Development Council, which helps the University secure donations from alumni and the community. Alison Poorvu Jaffe and Jonathan Poorvu are current members of the Council. Members of the Poorvu family could not be reached for comment.
The Poorvu family’s gift comes as the University starts its new capital campaign, which is currently in its silent phase. As administrators and the development office are trying to secure major donations before the campaign goes public, they are also narrowing down the University’s priorities for future spending.
In the past, University President Peter Salovey and other administrators have asserted the University’s commitment to supporting excellent teaching and learning.
“[The Poorvu family’s] support enhances Yale’s strength in innovative, interdisciplinary teaching,” President Salovey said in the Nov. 19 announcement. “It advances my goal for Yale to be the global research university most committed to teaching and learning.”
Provost and development office officials did not respond to comment on whether fostering teaching and learning at the University would be one of the priorities of the next fundraising push. They also did not comment on the relationship between the Poorvu family’s gift and the silent phase of the capital campaign.
Yale raised $595.89 million in 2017.
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