Frederick Chan MAUD ’74 believes that the most impactful design happens outside of the studio, and that the most important work of a graduate school is to carry out research that can shape the profession. That deep conviction in training designers of the future led to Chan’s generous gift to the GSD’s Annual Fund, which will support the School’s greatest needs.
“Harvard has been a wonderful place and experience for me,” Chan said. “I learned at the school that the tuition we pay is about one-third of the cost of educating a student. Therefore, I think it’s important that after we leave, we continue to support education to make it possible for the next generation, both in terms of financial aid and continuing participation in the school’s programs so we can learn from each other. Students are more creative when they’re not constrained.”
Chan, who describes himself as semi-retired and splits his time between Hong Kong and Bangkok, had a successful career in architecture and development. He was Managing Director at FMC Group, and president and chief executive officer at NuWest Group. In addition to his Master of Architecture in Urban Design from Harvard, Chan also holds a bachelor’s degree in architecture from the University of California Berkeley.
His experience at Harvard, including a class with Mortimer B. Zuckerman LLM ’62, and his varied background, have cultivated Chan’s appreciation for the GSD’s multidisciplinary approach, especially the GSD’s collaboration with the John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.
“Design is no longer a profession by itself, and urban problems or problems in modern society can’t be tackled by one discipline,” Chan said. “Issues are so complicated and specialized, and you can’t design in a vacuum. Training in design should enable the student to learn how to work and collaborate with people from different fields.”
“I have always thought that design should be part of the core educational curriculum in our schools along with language skills and math,” he continued. “We can use design as a way both to learn and come up with solutions and communicate with others. In an increasingly visually-oriented world, design is taking on a more important role.”
Even a world away from Cambridge, Chan maintains his connections to the GSD in several ways: speaking to students, watching every commencement speech, and reading the Harvard Gazette every day. He has also participated in GSD seminars in Asia, such as a waterfront study in Hong Kong and a design review in Shanghai, and praised the GSD’s efforts to connect with alumni in the region.
“I love having the chance to talk to a lot of young students and get involved in the studio projects,” Chan said. “I find it very fascinating. It’s almost like I’m going back to school again.”