The Harvard University Graduate School of Design (GSD) celebrated the newly created Thomas Payette Financial Aid Fund and the power of the fellowships and financial aid during its second annual fellowship reception on Wednesday, April 12, 2017. The event joined GSD donors with students who have benefited from their financial aid gifts, along with faculty and staff, to share a deep appreciation for the support of next generation of leaders who will mold the strategies and structures to confront global challenges.

Enabling Talent and Ideas to Prevail—The Thomas Payette Financial Aid Fund

In the spirit of giving back, Campaign Co-Chair Phil Harrison AB ’86, MArch ’93 set the stage for an exciting announcement of the Thomas Payette Financial Aid Fund. Established by three GSD alumni at Payette Associates, Inc., President and CEO Kevin Sullivan MArch ’94, and two Partners, David Feth MArch ’85, and Leon Drachman MAUD ’93, the fund honors the legacy of Payette Associates, Inc. Founder, Thomas Payette MArch ’60. Payette Associates, Inc. is latest in a list of several firms, including Perkins+Will, Elkus Manfredi Architects, and Hickok Cole, who recognize the value of investing in the future of design education through a gift of the GSD.

In their remarks, Sullivan, Feth, and Drachman said they were inspired to start this fund from Payette’s passion for the GSD and because “Harvard and GSD have been particularly important for all three of us acting as a continuous catalyst to provide critical thinking and deeper logic surrounding our architecture.” Sullivan shared how as a student, Payette stood out in Robinson Hall as the only student in a suit. The reason for this sartorial attire was that Payette was coming from his full-time job working for a structural engineer while adeptly balancing being a full-time student, a situation necessitated by financial circumstances. Sullivan’s hope is that “the Fund will help assure that many talented students….will have the ability to study at the GSD if they need financial assistance; and hopefully, they will not have to work full-time like time like Tom if they choose to go, or far worse, decide not to attend.” This new Fund is an important part of the Grounded Visionaries campaign goal to make a GSD education more accessible and provide graduating students with the freedom to make career choices based on their passions, rather than their financial obligations to pay back student loans.


(Left to right) Alexandra Mei MLA ’17, Alberto de Salvatierra MLA ’17, MDesS ’17, Krystyna Breger, and Beth Kramer, associate dean for development & alumni relations.

Extending the Knowledge Base of Students through Fabrication – The Irving Innovation Fellowship

Serving as the inaugural Irving Innovation Fellow has granted Alex Timmer MArch ’16 the opportunity to establish a trajectory for his practice during a post-graduation fellowship. As a designer, maker, and educator, Timmer has spent his time in the Fabrication Laboratory (FabLab) extending the knowledge base of the GSD. By working with students, staff, and faculty, he has contributed to building deep and constructive integration between design studio pedagogy, materiality, fabrication, and assembly technologies including the integration of Japanese carpentry tools from the Takenaka Corporation.

In his remarks at the fellowship reception, Timmer expressed how gifts of support reverberate within the GSD— gifts often have a meaningful impact on others beyond the direct recipient(s). His gratitude to the John E. Irving Family was evident in his remarks. He thanked the Irving Family for the “time and resources to coalesce all of my opportunities into my own design and research practice” and for the opportunity to “help students develop a methodology of making through integration into the studios and being ever-present in FabLab.” The Family’s gift in honor of their father John E. (Jack) Irving kick-started the Grounded Visionaries campaign in 2013, and John K. F. Irving AB ’83, MBA ’89 serves as Campaign Co-Chair along with Harrison. One component of the Irving gift was the establishment of the John E. Irving Dean’s Innovation Fund, out of which the Irving Innovation Fellowship originated.

Through its innovative, collaborative design curriculum, award-winning faculty and critics, and cutting-edge research, the GSD provides unmatched opportunities for learning to its students. However, this level of design education is costly. Financial aid support is crucial to the School’s ability to enroll the most talented students from around the world. With a year remaining in the Grounded Visionaries campaign, the GSD is continuing to raise awareness for the importance of financial aid in empowering top design students. For more information on how you can make a commitment to future generations of talented design leaders through supporting fellowships and financial aid at the GSD, please contact [email protected].




Photo credit: Justin Knight