01 Jun 2013

Building a Better Brazil

Re: Erl Lorentzen (MBA 1948); Sal Khan (MBA 2003); Nitin Nohria



This past spring, three separate donors offered substantial contributions to the School, all toward a similar goal: advancing Brazil.

André Esteves, cofounder and CEO of Brazil-based BTG Pactual, the largest investment bank in Latin America, made a significant personal donation to renovate Baker Hall, which will be renamed Esteves Hall in his honor. The residence hall is used by the School's Executive Education programs, which annually attract some 10,000 executives from around the world—a substantial proportion of them from Brazil.

Esteves, a member of the School's Latin America Advisory Board, and his colleagues have previously worked with HBS faculty on an executive training program for members of BTG Pactual's management team. Esteves was inspired to pursue this undertaking because of his interest in education and opportunities to improve management education in Brazil by sharing best practices learned at HBS. "The men and women who graduate from the School's Executive Education programs have a long-lasting impact on the progress of their workers, their companies, and their countries, and have done so in particular in Brazil," said Esteves, who visited the HBS campus in March to deliver the keynote speech at a conference organized by the student-run Club Latinoamericano.

"The aim of our Executive Education programs is to help fulfill the need for well-trained business leaders at all levels of organizations worldwide, and we are interested in increasing our focus in Latin America," said Dean Nitin Nohria. "This gift contributes greatly to our ability to accomplish that and puts Brazil squarely on the stage as a global player, thanks to André's commitment."

In addition to the Esteves gift, fellow Brazilian businessman and philanthropist Jorge Paulo Lemann, a 1961 graduate of Harvard College, made a significant donation to advance the School's state-of-the-art online educational platform. The gift was made through the Lemann Foundation, a nonprofit organization Lemann and his family created in 2002 to enhance the quality of public education in Brazil. "Investing in innovation to promote large-scale social change is a pillar of the strategy that Mr. Lemann and the Lemann Foundation have proposed to improve the quality of Brazilian education at all levels," said Lemann Foundation CEO Denis Mizne. "This gift is in harmony with that strategy, which aims to develop programs in a wide variety of subjects to enable Brazilian students to take advantage of world-class courses without leaving their home, school, or office."

In recent years, the Lemann Foundation has partnered with Khan Academy—founded by Sal Khan (MBA 2003)—to translate its free online educational videos into Portuguese for use in Brazil and created QEdu, a portal where educators and the public can find free information about the quality of learning in every school, county, and state in Brazil—with the hope that such transparency will help improve education throughout the country. In 2006, the foundation established the Lemann Fellowships at Harvard to give Brazilians who work or aspire to work as professionals in education, government, or public health the opportunity for advanced study at the University to help build a strong network of leaders committed to social change in Brazil.

The children of Erling Lorentzen (MBA 1948), who was born in Norway but settled in Brazil as a young man, made a gift in his honor to establish the Erling Lorentzen Business and Environment Initiative Fund.

A pioneer in the field of sustainable development, Lorentzen founded his pulp-making business Aracruz Celulose in 1968 as an environmentally sound industrial company committed to both the natural world and the growth of the Brazilian communities where it operated. Lorentzen served as chairman of Aracruz until 2004; under his leadership, the company built a world-class research center to study eucalyptus plants, eventually developing methods that allow the plants to grow from saplings to full-size trees in just seven years. The Lorentzen children—Haakon, Ingeborg, and Ragnhild—announced the gift on the occasion of their father's 90th birthday in Oslo on January 28.

The new fund will have a particular focus on sustainable development, supporting research within the School's Business and Environment Initiative, which was formed in 2010 to deepen the collective understanding of the environmental challenges confronting business leaders.

"This gift will help HBS continue to advance research into the relationships between economic systems and the natural environment," said Dean Nitin Nohria. "I can think of no better way to honor a man who has dedicated his career to ensuring a peaceful coexistence between business and the planet. Erling's pioneering work has been an inspiration, and I know this gift will help inspire the next generation of businesspeople to follow his lead."

These gifts point to increasing momentum around Harvard, HBS, and Brazil, highlighted by last year's visit by Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff to the University to witness the signing of a five-year agreement eliminating financial barriers for talented Brazilian science students pursuing undergraduate and graduate studies at Harvard; an HBS faculty immersion planned for this month; and a record-breaking year for admits to HBS from Brazil.


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