Barrie Damson, AB ’56, is a dedicated Harvard Chan champion. He feels so close to the School that he refers to the students as “our students.” As in, “Our students are charged with the responsibility of educating policymakers and the public and working to prevent health problems faced by societies around the world.”
Yet many of the most highly qualified students—those best equipped to shoulder this heavy responsibility—require financial assistance to attend Harvard Chan. To help change this situation, Damson and his wife, Joan, recently established the Damson Family Financial Aid Fund with a gift of $150,000.
“My goal for the Fund is that it help people who will be helping others,” he says. “When you look back at our graduates, you’ll find world leaders, individuals who come back to the School as educators, and distinguished men and women who cover the gamut of health care. These are people who are making a real difference in the world, helping many thousands and perhaps millions of people.”
The impact of financial aid has been on Damson’s radar for quite some time—since his college days at Harvard, in fact. His friend and roommate, one of just a handful of African-American students in his class, would not have been able to attend the College without the scholarship he received. “Wonderful things happen when someone is given an opportunity to go further in life than he or she would have without it,” says Damson, noting that his friend went on to become an orthopedic surgeon.
Although the Damsons have been Harvard Chan supporters for more than 10 years and have previously contributed to other funds at the School—including the Annual Fund, the Dean’s Fund for Innovation, the Scholarship Fund, and the Barry R. and Irene Tilenium Bloom Fellowship Fund—they decided to establish their own fund so they could have a more direct connection with the fellowship recipients. The Damsons allocated an additional $10,000 annually as a current-use fellowship gift, which this year was awarded to Cristina Gall, SM ’17, whose studies focus on nutritional epidemiology and in particular the relationship between dietary factors and noncommunicable diseases.
Damson is connected to financial aid in another way as well. A member of the School’s Leadership Council Executive Committee, Damson was the 2015 recipient of the Volunteer Leadership Award. In his honor, a Volunteer Leadership Award Scholarship was presented in his name to a deserving student, Emily Gao, SM ’16, who is studying health policy and management with a focus on health financing and delivery in emerging markets.
“All in all,” says Damson, “I can’t think of a more important contribution to the School than a financial aid fund. The more I get to know the School and learn what it’s doing, the more committed I am to it and the more important I believe it is to our country and our people and the people of the world. This School stands among the top schools across the globe for what its students and faculty have contributed to humanity.”