Jonathan and Jeannie Lavine


Jonathan Lavine, MBA ’92 and his wife

Jeannie Lavine, AB ’88, MBA ’92

From the time they first met at the Au Bon Pain at Harvard Business School, Jonathan Lavine MBA ’92 and Jeannie Bachelor Lavine AB ’88, MBA ’92 discovered they had many common interests. While balancing studies with volunteer work at City Year, the couple’s connection was deepened by their shared commitment to social issues and giving back. Twenty years later, their passion for philanthropy is stronger than ever.

Last year, the Lavines made a $5 million gift to establish the Lavine Family Humanitarian Studies Initiative (HSI) within the Humanitarian Academy division of the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative (HHI) at the School of Public Health. HHI is a University- wide center that combines expertise in public health, medicine, social science, and the humanities to advance research, practice, and policy in the field of humanitarian assistance to populations affected by war and disaster. The catalyst for the Lavines’ generous support was the Haiti earthquake crisis.

“When we witnessed what was happening in Haiti, we wanted to go above and beyond to help out,” Jonathan explains. “It was unbelievable to us that such poverty and human suffering was happening in our hemisphere. But when we looked for ways to offer our support, we found that it was actually hard to be involved in a big way. Eventually, a work colleague of mine and Harvard alumna, Kristin Williams Mugford [AB ’89, MBA ’93], told me about her friend Michael VanRooyen, who runs HHI. When we met with him, he blew us away with the amazing work the Initiative was doing, not only on the ground in Haiti but also in the science and practice of humanitarian response worldwide.”

In addition to serving as the director of HHI, VanRooyen is a professor in the Department of Global Health and Population at the Harvard School of Public Health, the director of the Division of International Health and Humanitarian Programs in the Department of Emergency Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.

Jeannie adds: “We were so amazed by what the Initiative was able to accomplish with such limited funds that we made our gift on the spot. We asked,

‘What would it take to make this a long-term sustainable effort?’ We wanted to provide enough funding so that the Initiative wouldn’t have to survive month to month; so that its incredible staff could continue to do what they were doing.”

The new Lavine Family Humanitarian Studies Initia- tive in HHI’s Humanitarian Academy is a collabora- tive, multidisciplinary educational program that seeks to develop leaders in the continually evolving field of humanitarian studies through the use of case studies, simulation-based learning, and training provided by international field experts. The Lavines hope that their gift will help raise awareness of the Humanitarian Academy and inspire others to join them in offering support to help the Initiative continue to grow.

“Jonathan and Jeannie understood immediately what we were hoping to accomplish,” says VanRooyen.

“Their gift was transformative for HHI and the Humanitarian Academy.”

In addition to their dedication to advancing humani- tarian studies, the Lavines have also shown a commit- ment to helping students at their alma mater. Recently, they also made a $2 million gift to support Harvard students through the Lavine Family Cornerstone Scholarship Fund and help the University advance its priorities through current-use, unrestricted support.

“As graduates of public high schools, Jonathan and
I love to support financial aid at both Harvard and Columbia,” Jeannie says, “because we think it’s really important that students from all economic back- grounds have access to an excellent education.”

Jeannie has a long history of reaching out to those in need, with a focus on education and children’s issues.

Over the past 20 years, she has offered her support and time to organizations that provide aid to homeless mothers and children, and she was instrumental in organizing Stand for Children, an advocacy group
in Massachusetts.

Jonathan, the managing partner and chief invest- ment officer of Sankaty Advisors, Bain Capital’s fixed income and credit affiliate, proudly works with Jeannie on philanthropic work, and they often host dinners at their home in order to introduce friends to their favorite charities.

“We are driven by the realization that, no matter
how hard you work in life, luck has a lot to do with it,” Jonathan says. “Our family has been incredibly lucky, and we think it’s really important for people in similar positions to step up and do as much as they can.”