Reversing the Rhodes Scholarship

  • Prosperity
  • 1925

The philanthropic foundation set up by the Harkness family with Standard Oil earnings was called the Commonwealth Fund. In 1925 Edward Harkness—one of the most active and most effective donors of the first half of the twentieth century—decided to create a kind of mirror image of the Rhodes Scholarships. Cecil Rhodes paid for promising Americans to go to Britain for advanced study. The Commonwealth Fund Scholarships reciprocated that, bringing bright Britons to U.S. universities for a meeting of minds. They did that successfully for the next 72 years (though they were renamed Harkness Fellowships in 1961). Many Harkness fellows went on to prominent success, like Sunday Times editor Harold Evans, composer Peter Maxwell Davies, architect Rem Koolhaas, and London School of Economics director Howard Davies. Some became Americans, such as physicist Freeman Dyson and journalists Andrew Sullivan and Alastair Cooke. In 1997 the Harkness Fellowships were narrowed into study awards for health-care specialists only.