Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

Editor: Gerry W. Beyer
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

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Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Ten Peculiar Bequests to Harvard


Harvard University owns some bizarre things due to peculiar bequests by donors.  Here are the top ten:

  1. The Falik Men’s Room.  Alumnus William A. Falik donated $100,000 to the Law School, suggesting the university build a new restroom after him.
  2. The Walter Gropius-designed Dining Hall Tray.  The German architect and chairman of Harvard’s Department of Architecture designed this tray, which stopped being used everyday in the late 60s and came to be called ‘the trashcan lid.’
  3. Gore Vidal’s fortune.  Even though the renowned writer didn’t go to Harvard, he left his multimillion-dollar fortune to the university.
  4. A. E. Pillsbury’s “anti-feminism” bequest.  The former Massachusetts Attorney General bequested $25,000 in 1931 to be used to combat the feminist movement.  Harvard refused to accept.
  5. Name scholarships.  Some donors leave scholarship money to be given to future students with a particular last name, like Thayer or Downer.
  6. Professor Arthur A. Maass’ free orchestra tickets.  The government professor established a first-come, first-serve free ticketing program providing seven to eight free tickets a week to the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
  7. Real estate.  Thanks to generous donors, Harvard Real Estate, Inc., owns and manages real estate all over the world.
  8. George Andrew Reisner’s mystery collection.  The renowned Egyptologist bequested an extensive collection of mystery and thriller novels, some of which he personally graded.
  9. Forests.  Harvard owns two forests: the Black Rock Forest in Cornwall, New York, and the Petersham in Worcester County.
  10. An unbelievable amount of money.  Hansjorg Wyss broke the record in 2008 with a $125 million donation.

See Sally H. Na, 10 Peculiar Bequests in Harvard’s History, The Harvard Crimson, Dec. 5, 2013.


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