Promoting Society-Level Change

Photo Courtesy of John and Valerie Rowe

With a recent gift of $450,000 to the David E. Bell Postdoctoral Fellowship Fund at the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies (“Pop Center”), Valerie and John “Jack” Rowe have continued their support for research on population health at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. The Rowes’ contribution, a renewal of previous gifts to the Fellowship, funds two postdoctoral scholars for two years of research and leadership training in population and development.

Lisa Berkman, the Thomas D. Cabot Professor of Public Policy, Epidemiology, and Global Health and Population, is director of the Pop Center and a longtime friend of the Rowes. “Lisa and Jack worked together at the MacArthur Foundation in the ’80s on the foundation’s Research Network on Successful Aging,” says Valerie. “Now they’re  working with MacArthur again—this time, at the Research Network on an Aging Society, rejecting the broader nature of the challenges facing the world today.”

When Berkman became director of the Pop Center in 2007, she brought Valerie into the Harvard Chan School fold. “I believe deeply in the center’s work,” says Valerie. “It has very significant direct relevance to the development of evidence-based policies for many of society’s challenges, including aging, immigration, diversity, and inequality.”

Funding population health research is a natural t for this couple, who combine academics and practice. Valerie taught for years in elementary and middle schools, then earned a PhD and served as a clinical associate professor in the Graduate School of Education at Fordham University, focusing her work on vulnerable children. She is particularly interested in the Pop Center’s research on flexible working hours and volunteering as ways to incorporate people into the workforce. Jack, a physician, is Julius B. Richmond Professor of Health Policy and Aging at Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University.

Much of the Rowes’ philanthropy over the years has been in the form of scholarships, including for high school and college students. Valerie and Jack realized that funding postdoctoral scholars would bene t the Pop Center while also allowing the fellows to continue their research without incurring excessive debt. Currently, the Rowes are supporting Lindsay Kobayashi, PhD, a social epidemiologist whose main research examines lifetime employment trajectories and early childhood disadvantage and their impact on cognitive health in later life; and Xavier Gómez-Olivé, PhD, who, through the Pop Center’s HAALSI project, studies the link between HIV and noncommunicable diseases in South Africa.

“Valerie and Jack’s generosity has a broad impact beyond helping the Bell scholars today,” says Berkman. “The fellows’ research will contribute to improving population health over the long term. We are so grateful for the Rowes’ continuing support.”