A festive gathering by the sea to commemorate the success of a special fellowship 

Ashford Fellows and Ashford family members pose for a group shot on the porch of the Ashford family home

  

In the endeavor to bring the brightest and most talented PhD students to Harvard, the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences has a stalwart ally: a family of Harvard College alumni who see the vital connections between a strong PhD program and a strong University. The Ashford family — Theodore H. Ashford ’58 and his sons, Theodore III ’86 and Timothy ’88 — has awarded fellowships to a select group of outstanding PhD students in the natural sciences, the humanities, and the social sciences since 2004. The funding allows GSAS to make the strongest possible offer to exceptionally bright prospective students, in many cases making a difference in students’ ultimate decision about whether to come to Harvard for their doctoral study.

The family was inspired by the occasion of the Ted Ashford’s 45th reunion from Harvard, when he was contemplating a meaningful gift and learned about the competition Harvard faces in recruiting the very best graduate students to its PhD programs. “I understood that something needed to be done right away or we would begin to fall behind,” he told the Harvard Gazette in 2004.

The awareness of how a strong graduate program is essential to ensuring a strong undergraduate and research program led the family to create the Theodore H. Ashford Graduate Fellowships, which have thus far supported 44 students, including 6 in the 2012–2013 cohort.

Over the years, the Ashford family has formed an extraordinarily close relationship with the Graduate School and with the students selected each year as fellows. Ted Ashford and his sons attend regular gatherings in Cambridge to meet the designated students and to hear in-depth accounts of their research, gaining a first-hand understanding of the impact that these scholars are making.

This year, the Ashfords invited all current and past fellows to a reunion and celebration at their family home in Narragansett, RI — a beautiful seaside setting that lent itself to the kind of conviviality and generosity of spirit that the award has always represented. Approximately 35 fellows attended the reunion, held on October 27, 2012, and the weather cooperated, allowing for lawn games and an al fresco luncheon and series of short research presentations, held under a tent. The festivities extended into dinner, when the family hosted the fellows at the Clambake Club in nearby Newport.

It was clear from the camaraderie among the fellows (see photos below) and the pride they took in presenting their work to the Ashfords that this relationship, for all of the important institutional needs it advances, is a deeply personal one. It was a special day, celebrating a special relationship.

 

 

A member of the Ashford family shakes hands with an Ashford Fellow
Ashford family members and Ashford Fellows gather at the family home
Ashford fellows in conversation on the porch of the Ashford family home
Ashford Fellows gather on the lawn outside the Ashford family home, with the ocean in the distance
Ashford Fellows play games on the lawn outside the Ashford family home

Ashford Fellows Celebrate with Benefactors