Transforming Learning

New gift accelerates innovation in education and reinforces a legacy of philanthropy from two of Harvard’s most dedicated donors

People on video call

In 2011, a gift from Rita E. Hauser HLS ’58 and Gustave M. “Gus” Hauser LLB ’53 laid the groundwork for Harvard to embark on a monumental effort to reshape educational experiences. By establishing the Harvard Initiative for Learning and Teaching (HILT), the University launched a framework for faculty, academic professional staff, and students from across Schools to pioneer new teaching methods and investigate technologies to best engage their students. 

“We can only dream of the outcomes,” Gus Hauser said at the time, understanding the far-reaching potential of this initiative to advance the science of learning. No one, however, could have predicted that a global pandemic would upend the landscape of education. Yet thanks to HILT, the Office of the Vice Provost for Advances in Learning (VPAL), which oversees it, and the generosity that fueled their efforts, Harvard has been uniquely positioned not only to navigate teaching in this difficult time but to lead the way. 

In the last decade, HILT and VPAL have cultivated an ever-growing teaching and learning community that allows practitioners from across the University to share pedagogical approaches and challenges. Now, Rita Hauser is honoring the legacy of her late husband with a new gift to expand the work of VPAL—led by Vice Provost for Advances in Learning Bharat Anand—and continue catalyzing innovation and excellence in Harvard teaching and learning.

“I am truly delighted by all of the progress that has been made. When Gus and I made our first gift to establish HILT, we didn’t know what might be achieved, but HILT’s significant impact across all of Harvard and beyond is very clear,” said Rita Hauser. “Bharat’s vision is inspiring. Gus would be very pleased, and I’m so happy to have the chance to extend his legacy with this gift.”

VPAL aims to enhance educational experiences for Harvard students and learners around the globe. By working closely with faculty and leading educators throughout the University, it motivates, curates, and promotes instructors’ experiments in cutting-edge pedagogy—residential, blended, and online. The gift supports VPAL’s growing portfolio of resources for the Harvard teaching and learning community, including Harvard Online courses, digital tools and technologies, pedagogical expertise, the annual HILT Conference, a biweekly Into Practice newsletter that highlights teaching practices of faculty from across Harvard’s Schools, and a “Teaching Innovations Gallery” of faculty videos sharing insights on online teaching and course design based on their experience in fall 2020. Thanks to the Hausers’ generosity at this important time, VPAL can expand and deepen its partnership with instructors to enhance the learning experiences of students at Harvard and beyond.

“Faculty have learned firsthand that new possibilities arise when our classrooms are no longer constrained by time and location, so we have an enormous opportunity to expand access, personalize learning—and do so at scale,” says Anand, Henry R. Byers Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School. “Inspired by the Hausers’ unwavering commitment to innovation in education, Harvard has been able to harness its breadth, depth, and expertise to continue to push the frontiers of excellence in teaching.”

The gift coincides with a forthcoming report from the Future of Teaching and Learning Task Force, a group of Harvard faculty and leaders assembled by Anand to explore the long-term implications of the changes at Harvard during the pandemic and the creativity, discoveries, and new approaches to education that resulted. The report will highlight opportunities to ensure that a Harvard learning experience grows ever more interactive, inclusive, and global. The task force’s recommendations build on precisely the range of exciting possibilities Gus and Rita Hauser envisioned a decade ago. 

“I’ve seen firsthand the good that continues to derive from the Hausers’ generosity,” says Harvard President Lawrence S. Bacow JD ’76, MPP ’76, PhD ’78. “Their investments in support of HILT and VPAL have been essential through the transition to remote instruction, driving innovation in a challenging time. Every student and teacher at Harvard has benefited from Gus and Rita’s vision and dedication, and their philanthropy has made Harvard—and the world—a better place.”

A Lifetime of Giving

Gus and Rita Hauser

“Gus Hauser was a remarkable person who cared deeply about creating positive change in the world. His interest in developing ethical leaders who can work across sectors to make a difference has had a significant impact both at Harvard and beyond.”


Gus Hauser, who passed away in February 2021, will be remembered across Harvard for his enduring generosity. In addition to his steadfast support of HILT, Gus and his wife, Rita, focused their giving to Harvard Kennedy School on the nexus of public policy and civil society, establishing the Hauser Center for Nonprofit Organizations, which later became the Hauser Institute for Civil Society. A signature project, the Hauser Leaders Program hosts distinguished leaders from the public, nonprofit, and private sectors—including Larry Bacow, who served as the Hauser-Leader-in-Residence for several years before becoming Harvard’s president—to learn from and enrich the Harvard community. The couple also funded two professorships: the Hauser Professor of the Practice of Nonprofit Organizations and the Rita E. Hauser Senior Lecturer in Leadership and Civil Society, held today by Cornell William Brooks and Marshall Ganz AB ’64, MPA ’93, PhD ’00, respectively. In the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, the Rita E. Hauser Forum for the Arts at the Mahindra Humanities Center has hosted events that explore and address the “state of the arts” across the globe. And at Harvard Law School (HLS), where the couple first met, their philanthropy led to the construction of Hauser Hall in 1995 and has been fundamental to HLS’s Human Rights Program, including the Rita E. Hauser Professorship of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law.


A Conversation on Inclusive Excellence

“Championing Equitable Instruction and Inclusive Classrooms” was the focus of the HILT Conference 2020. This conversation featured Sherri Ann Charleston, chief diversity and inclusion officer at Harvard University; Anthony Jack PhD ’16, assistant professor of education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education; María Luisa Parra, senior preceptor in Romance languages and literatures in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences; and Clint Smith EdM ’17, PhD ’20, staff writer at the Atlantic.