Convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein made multiple donations to Harvard University totaling nearly $9 million, based on current information, according to an internal email by the school’s president that was sent Sept. 12.
Between 1998 and 2007, Harvard received multiple donations from Epstein, the largest of which was a $6.5 million gift. President Lawrence S. Bacow made the disclosure in a letter that was addressed to the university’s community.
Epstein was awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges in a Manhattan jail when he was found dead in his cell on Aug. 10. His death was ruled by the New York City Medical Examiner’s office as a suicide by hanging.
Two weeks ago, Bacow ordered a review of Epstein’s donations to Harvard after the financier’s links to Harvard and other schools, such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), had raised concerns, he said. Bacow emphasized that their review of Epstein’s donations is still ongoing.
Harvard made the point that the university didn’t accept donations from Epstein after he pleaded guilty in Florida in 2008 to state charges of soliciting a child for prostitution, under a non-prosecution agreement that required him to spend 13 months in jail and register as a sex offender.
“Each of these gifts from Epstein and his affiliated foundations to Harvard University predates his guilty plea in June 2008,” Bacow said. “To date, we have uncovered no gifts received from Epstein or his foundation following his guilty plea.”
“Moreover, we specifically rejected a gift from Epstein following his conviction in 2008,” he said.
The largest gift Harvard received from Epstein, the $6.5 million donation, was to support the Program for Evolutionary Dynamics in 2003. Harvard also took in other, smaller gifts that totaled about $2.4 million, according to the review.
“Epstein’s behavior, not just at Harvard, but elsewhere, raises significant questions about how institutions like ours review and vet donors,” Bacow said. He added that Harvard will be forming a group to review strategies to stop such situations from occurring again in the future and noted that he hoped to engage with peer institutions as well.
The letter ended with Bacow condemning Epstein’s crimes as “repulsive and reprehensible” and said he “profoundly” regrets Harvard’s past association with him.
MIT’s Media Lab Director Joi Ito resigned on Sept. 7, a day after a report detailed how the lab attempted to hide its financial relationship with Epstein.
Epstein also “facilitated,” but didn’t contribute money to, a major donation that funded the construction costs of the Harvard Hillel’s building, according to a new report from the school’s student newspaper, The Harvard Crimson. It was previously believed that Epstein had helped finance the building’s construction.
“Mr. Epstein facilitated a leading gift toward the construction of Harvard Hillel’s building, and his name was associated with that gift at the time – however, that gift itself was donated by the Wexners,” Hillel Executive Director Rabbi Jonah C. Steinberg announced in an email to Harvard affiliates.
“Given that, and in view of Mr. Wexner’s having severed connections with Mr. Epstein, we were glad to list only Leslie and Abigail Wexner as having donated the naming gift for Harvard Hillel’s building.”
The building, completed in 1994, cost roughly $3.6 million in total. Steinberg’s email came not long before Lawrence’s email to the Harvard community.