Columbians Ahead of Their Time
 Edward Stephen Harkness
Edward Stephen Harkness "What has happened here surpasses anything I did or could dream of."

Edward Stephen Harkness (1874–1940)
LLD (hon.) 1928

Edward S. Harkness, whose name is still prominent on buildings at Columbia University Medical Center, is arguably the most important person in the facility's history. When Columbia went looking for a hospital to form a medical center, Harkness made it happen - resigning from the board of Roosevelt Hospital and joining that of Presbyterian Hospital after Roosevelt declined Columbia's offer to for a partnership. He then donated land and money to build the original medical center and additional buildings. When Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center was dedicated in 1928, Harkness received an honorary degree. Without his persistence and "princely benefactions," the citation read, the center might never have been built. Harkness and his family gave more than $47 million to the hospital and P&S, and both were named as beneficiaries in his will.

At the time of his death at age 66, in 1940, Harkness had already given away $100 million of his fortune - a total that may not reflect many additional anonymous gifts. According to his obituary in The New York Times, colleges, schools, hospitals, libraries, and museums were the chief beneficiaries of Harkness's generosity, reflecting his belief that the betterment of humanity could be achieved by building good health and good education.

Adapted from P&S Journal, Fall 2003

Read more about Harkness in the Columbia Encyclopedia

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