Metro

Harvard receives $35 million gift for early education study

The Harvard Graduate School of Education will use a $35 million gift — its biggest single donation ever — to launch a new early childhood program that will conduct one of the largest studies on pre-K education in decades.

“It’s one of the most significant investments in early childhood education,” said the graduate school’s dean, James Ryan. “I think it will give us the capacity to tackle some of the most important issues and challenges in early childhood education, which are basically about how you create high quality pre-K for all kids.”

The gift, which will be announced Wednesday, was given by the Saul Zaentz Charitable Foundation. The foundation was named after Saul Zaentz, the son of Jewish Eastern European immigrants, who rose from poverty in New Jersey to become one of the largest independent music and film producers in the United States.

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Zaentz, who died in 2014, represented the likes of Creedence Clearwater Revival (with whom he had a legendary legal feud) and won three Academy Awards for Best Picture for producing “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” “The English Patient,’’ and “Amadeus.’’

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“We hope that this will create a center at Harvard that can become the go-to place for people coming together to talk about all of the issues, including quality early childhood education, and will act as a catalyst to spur federal funding for a national program of quality early childhood education,” said Elliot Steinberg, a director of the foundation.

Harvard president Drew Faust said the new program, to be housed in Cambridge at the School of Education, will become a nationally known initiative. “It will support faculty and students who care deeply about improving outcomes for very young children, and will become an essential source at the university and across the country for scholarship, partnership and professional learning,” Faust said in a statement.

Part of the gift will be used to launch the Harvard Early Learning Study, a five-year analysis that will follow a group of 3-year-olds who reflect “the linguistic, socioeconomic and racial diversity of today’s population,” according to Harvard.

The School of Education also will create the Saul Zaentz Academy for Professional Learning in Early Childhood. According to the school, the academy plans to offer traditional and online classes, institutes, and certificate programs for early childhood educators, leaders, and policy makers.

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In addition, it will offer eight new master’s fellowships and a fellowship in the PhD program.

Also, part of the $35 million will go to fund two new endowed chairs at the School of Education.

Steven A. Rosenberg
can be reached at srosenberg@globe.com.