Bill Ackman and his wife Karen Ackman has awarded Harvard University $17 million to catalyze the work of Harvard’s Foundations of Human Behavior Initiative (FHB)

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The gift from the alums reflects their philanthropic passions and their desire to effect social change globally.

The Ackmans to drive transformative insights

The Ackmans’ funding will go toward the Human Behavior Initiative. In a statement issued by Harvard School, the FHB’s goal is to drive transformative insights about the psychological, social, economic, and biological mechanisms that influence human behavior, and then help translate that new knowledge into mechanisms for improving human well-being across the world. The statement further added that toward that goal, FHB will galvanize cross-fertilization and collaboration among the University’s discipline-based departments in the social and biological sciences.

The $17 million award is intended to establish three endowed professorships and establish a $5 million research venture fund for Harvard faculty and students. Bill Ackman said in a statement: “Understanding the foundations of human behavior is a key to improving people’s health, wealth, and security around the globe. We are inspired by the potential of Harvard’s initiative.”

Committed $235 million

According to the statement, the Pershing Square Foundation has committed $235 million in grants and social investments to “support exceptional leaders and innovative organizations that tackle important social issues and deliver scalable and sustainable impact.” The Ackmans have also signed the Giving Pledge, a commitment to give a majority of their wealth away.

The first of the three Pershing Square Professorships has been awarded to Matthew Rabin, a leading scholar in behavioral economics, who will join the Harvard faculty in July. Rabin’s research includes the economics of individual self-control problems, reference-dependent preferences, fairness motives, and mistakes in probabilistic reasoning. He is a recipient of the John Bates Clark Medal and a MacArthur Fellowship.

As reported earlier, in September, Bill Ackman, the CEO of $12 billion Pershing Square Capital Management, announced a chancellorship program that will enable recent grads an opportunity to earn an MBA from the University of Oxford. Ackman’s Oxford Pershing Square Graduate Scholars Program, which he has begun with a gift of $6.6 million to endow the scholarships, looks to the betterment of the world through social entrepreneurship.

Ackman hopes that these scholarships will go to individuals who will “address world-scale challenges for the benefit of society.”