Carl H. Pforzheimer Jr. '28, one of Harvard's most prominent benefactors and head of a family renowned for three generations of service to the University, died Monday at his home in Florida. He was 89.
"He was simply one of those citizens with a humane point of view," President Neil L. Rudenstine said in an interview yesterday. "He always wanted to help, but not just according to his own priorities. He wanted to know how he could help according to our needs."
In recent years Pforzheimer and his wife, Carol K. Pforzheimer '31, endowed a University professorship, the directorship of Schlesinger Library and a position in the Kennedy School of Government.
In 1994, the university recognized the Pforzheimers' contributions by renaming North House in their honor.
"Pforzheimer House was a recognition of a lifetime of contribution for he and his wife," Rudenstine said. "He wasn't the kind of person that would have wanted an honor like that."
Pforzheimer graduated from the Business School in 1930. His involvement with the University continued through service on several university committees, including the Committee on Undergraduate Resources.
He served as president of the Harvard Alumni Association in the mid-1980s. In 1987, he and his wife became the first couple to win the Harvard Medal, given to the alumni who have done the most for the University, according to Pforzheimer University Professor Sidney Verba '53, a friend of the Pforzheimers for 20 years.
Pforzheimer's dedication to the University was his true motivation, friends said.
"He cared very intensely for the University, and therefore he used to just ask where he could be most helpful," said Verba. "He was not motivated by the chance to put his name on things, but by the chance to help an institution [to which] he was deeply committed."
J. Woodland Hastings, master of Pforzheimer House through 1995, characterized the Pforzheimers as "marvelous, warm, generous, modest and unassuming." He said the family kept in touch constantly in the months following the name change.
"You would think that people who were such large benefactors would be very rich and sort of above it all, but they were always warm and concerned," Hastings said.
He said Pforzheimer took an active interest in the workings of the house particularly because the house system was not in existence when he attended Harvard 70 years ago.
"They were fascinated by it all," Hastings said. "He was an undergrad in the 1920s when there weren't houses, so they were fascinated by what we did and how the house operated."
After taking over the Carl and Lily Pforzheimer Foundation, founded by his father in 1942, the Pforzheimers became benefactors of organizations including New York's Mount Sinai Hospital, Wellesley College, Lincoln Center Institute and their respective alma maters.
Memorial services for Pforzheimer will be held at a later date in New York City.
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