Irving Harris Foundation gives $10 million grant to support Harris School of Public Policy

The University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy is moving forward on an array of initiatives to support students, faculty and facilities with help from a $10 million grant from the Irving Harris Foundation. 

The grant continues a legacy of generous financial support for UChicago by the late Irving B. Harris and his wife, Joan W. Harris, whose passion for child welfare, early education and public service prompted them to help launch the Graduate School of Public Policy Studies at the University in 1988 and provide its core endowment.


“Chicago Harris continues to make an important impact on scholarship and public service through its faculty, and the many alumni who have made a difference in their communities and nations,” said President Robert J. Zimmer. “We are grateful to the Irving Harris Foundation for its continued commitment to the excellence of Chicago Harris.”

The new grant will help support student fellowships, junior faculty positions, visiting faculty, the new building fund, general operations and the Cultural Policy Center, which is a joint research initiative of Chicago Harris and NORC at the University of Chicago, dedicated to informing policies that affect the arts, humanities and cultural heritage.

To ensure continued recruitment of a top-tier, diverse student body and to fund Chicago Harris’ work on a new and larger building on campus to accommodate its growth, the foundation has included in the terms of the grant a match challenge—encouraging the school and its supporters to raise an additional $30 million in capital and fellowship funds.

“It is our expectation that this grant, and the additional money raised through the challenge, will help the school maintain its leadership role by attracting the very best and most accomplished students, and by providing a building that is consistent with the future needs of the school and its world-class reputation,” said Joan Harris, president of the Irving Harris Foundation, who noted in particular the grant’s support for a new building for Chicago Harris and for student fellowships.

Offered since 2001, the Irving Harris Fellowships provide full tuition and a $15,000 stipend for a select group of students. Since 2001, the program has continued to fulfill Irving Harris’ legacy by funding the education of more than 100 Chicago Harris students from diverse backgrounds, bringing a unique blend of cultural experiences and professional perspectives to the classroom. 

“Irving believed that the University of Chicago is an appropriate place for attracting intelligent and committed students who care about making a contribution outside of the traditional areas of law, medicine and business,” said Joan Harris.

Colm O’Muircheartaigh, dean of Chicago Harris, commended the Irving and Joan Harris family for their critical role in the growth and development of the school. “Their generosity enables us to support Irving Harris’ vision of attracting the best young minds to public policy. This new generation of leaders will challenge the conventional wisdom with evidence-assisted solutions to our policy decisions,” he added.

The Irving Harris Foundation focuses many of its investments in early childhood, child and family policy, the arts and encouraging public service, all areas of strength for Chicago Harris.

Chicago Harris aims to understand and influence public policies—both through research and by preparing talented individuals to become global leaders and agents of social change. A liaison between academic policy research and practitioners in the field, the school equips students to make an impact on the problems facing people and institutions around the globe.