Radcliffe Alumna Gives Back Across the University

Pringle Hart Symonds '56Pringle Hart Symonds '56
Harvard Alumni website
October 20, 2014

Pringle Hart Symonds ’56 may have spent her formative years on the campus of Radcliffe College, as it was then known, but her recent generosity reaches across Harvard. Symonds has established charitable gift annuities that support the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard Medical School (HMS), Harvard Business School (HBS), and the Harvard College Library system, including Widener Library—where she once worked. These gifts provide Symonds with both steady income and tax benefits. 

The daughter of a naval officer, Symonds attended 17 schools prior to college, but by the time she was a high school junior, she had set her sights on Radcliffe. She recalls her mother saying about college: “Do something that you will never be able to do again in life.” And she did just that. While at Radcliffe, she majored in French and seized the opportunity to spend her junior year in Paris.

Through Radcliffe College, Symonds made enduring friendships. One of her close friends is Nancy Pforzheimer Aronson AB ’56, the daughter of longtime Radcliffe supporters Carol Pforzheimer R ’31 and Carl Pforzheimer Jr. AB ’28, MBA ’30. Symonds says she gave to the Radcliffe Institute in honor  of Carol Pforzheimer, who died in 2010 after a lifetime of generosity to Radcliffe that took many forms—including the Carol K. Pforzheimer Professorship; the directorship of the Schlesinger Library; and the Carol K. Pforzheimer Student Fellowships. Additionally, Pforzheimer House is named for the Pforzheimer family, reflecting their long-standing support of Harvard.

After graduating from Radcliffe, Symonds earned a master of library science degree from Simmons College in Boston before returning to Cambridge, where she spent three years working on descriptive cataloging at Widener Library. Symonds notes that the library was, like Radcliffe, a place where many friendships were born.

Symonds credits her brother, W. Howard Hart MBA ’61, for motivating her to give back to the University. Hart provided Symonds with financial support after the death of her husband, John, in 1994. However, when she attempted to purchase a home, she was unable to take out a mortgage alone as she had “money but no income.” At her brother’s suggestion, she established a charitable gift annuity in support of HBS in 2010. That and her subsequent charitable gift annuities across the University—one in 2011 to support the Radcliffe Institute and another in 2014 for HMS and the Harvard College Library—provided Symonds with “steady, solid income” as she was turning 80. 

Symonds, who has had several doctors in her family, says she is passionate about primary care and global health, and she believes that “good medical care for everyone should be important to all of us.” She says she is happy to give unrestricted funds to HMS, especially given the cost of medical education and the financial barriers to going into primary care. “We need more internists and general medicine practitioners,” she says. 

For Symonds, charitable gift annuities at Harvard are “a great opportunity that more people should take advantage of and be educated about.” She notes that an annuity is a good gift vehicle for “anyone who is not in the category of having a lot of money.” Reflecting on her decision to direct her support to the University, Symonds adds, “Harvard was a reliable and trustworthy source to establish my charitable gift annuities. I know it isn’t going anywhere!”

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