I Choose Harvard: Ingrid Ehrenberg '82, MBA '87 and Joseph Chan
Ingrid Ehrenberg ’82, MBA ’87 has always been drawn to unfamiliar people and places. So it makes sense that she concentrated in East Asian studies at Harvard—including learning the challenging Mandarin language—and then spent two decades living and working in Hong Kong and Singapore.
“I like to glimpse into vastly different worlds and communicate with people from very different backgrounds,” the native New Yorker explains. “It can be a struggle, but you learn so much.”
Now back in Manhattan with her husband, Joseph Chan, and their two children, Ehrenberg is more appreciative than ever about the doors that Harvard opened to a wider world.
The couple has expressed their gratitude to Harvard with generous unrestricted giving to mark Ehrenberg’s 30th reunion last year. They were recognized as Harvard Yard Society Fellows for providing significant, flexible immediate-use funds that allow the Faculty of Arts and Sciences to pursue new opportunities as they emerge.
“We believe in the power of education to change lives,” says Chan, who earned degrees from the Chinese University of Hong Kong and HEC Paris, a French business school. “We’re in a position to give back because we had the opportunity to study decades ago. Why unrestricted support? Because we believe Harvard knows best how to allocate its resources effectively.”
Ehrenberg and Chan met in his native Hong Kong, where they both worked in commodities. But their story really began at Harvard College, where Ehrenberg lived in Adams House, volunteered with Phillips Brooks House (tutoring maximum-security prisoners), and became enamored of modern Chinese history.
She enjoyed courses on Buddhism, Confucianism, and other East Asian philosophies and religions with the late Benjamin Schwartz. “These were esoteric belief systems to me at the time, and I remember sitting in his class and feeling a sense of enlightenment, of being transformed and transported,” she says.
Also memorable was her senior thesis adviser, Ezra F. Vogel, now Henry Ford II Professor of the Social Sciences emeritus. As Ehrenberg got ready to venture to Asia after graduation (eager to gain work experience and explore the region she had studied), Vogel armed her with letters of introduction to CEOs and other well-connected people.
Ehrenberg spent several years with Citibank in Hong Kong, returned to Cambridge to attend Harvard Business School, and then worked in international finance in New York, Geneva, and Hong Kong. She later transitioned to consulting, providing communications training to Hong Kong companies and educational institutions. Recently she has focused on raising the couple’s 12- and 15-year-old children.
While overseas, Ehrenberg was active with Harvard Clubs in Switzerland and Asia. Having moved back to New York from Singapore in August, she looks forward to reconnecting with her Harvard friends in the U.S.
“Harvard has had a profound influence on me,” Ehrenberg reflects, “and that’s why Joe and I have chosen to give back in what we hope is a meaningful way.”