The Wexner Foundation became the latest donor to pull support from Harvard University over its response to the Hamas attack on Israel.
The foundation’s wealth is derived from L Brands, the former parent company of retailers Victoria’s Secret and Bath & Body Works.
The philanthropy, chaired by Leslie Wexner and Abigail Wexner, said in a letter to the Harvard Board of Overseers Monday that it was ending its “financial and programmatic relationship” with the university. The foundation supports up to 10 government and public service professionals from Israel each year to pursue a one-year degree from the Harvard Kennedy School.
“We are stunned and sickened at the dismal failure of Harvard’s leadership to take a clear and unequivocal stand against the barbaric murders of innocent Israeli civilians by terrorists last Saturday, the Sabbath and a festival day,” the foundation wrote in a letter signed by the Wexners, President Rabbi B. Elka Abrahamson and Ra’anan Avital, the director general.
Harvard President Claudine Gay, who took office in July, has struggled to placate some critics, who initially included former university president Larry Summers. Summers said he was outraged by Harvard’s initial silence after more than 30 student groups issued a statement blaming the violence solely on Israel, and not Hamas, which is designated a terrorist organization by the US and the European Union.
The Wexner Foundation’s letter describes a relationship that goes back decades. A building at the Kennedy School is named for Leslie Wexner, who donated funds for its construction.
Harvard didn’t have an immediate comment.
Donors and alumni at some US colleges have been pulling support over the institutions’ response to the Hamas attack on Israel, which killed at least 1,400 Israelis. The latest break follows a move by Israeli businessman Idan Ofer, who with his wife quit board posts at the Kennedy School last week.
Another Ivy League school, the University of Pennsylvania, has fended off accusations of antisemitism leveled by donor and alumnus Marc Rowan, the chief executive officer of Apollo Global Management Inc., who demanded two of its leaders resign. A Penn trustee also resigned over the weekend. And Jon Huntsman, the former Utah governor and US ambassador to China and Russia, said in a statement that he’s halting donations to Penn, his alma mater, calling the university “unrecognizable,” according to the Daily Pennsylvanian, the student newspaper.
Leslie Wexner, the 86-year-old founder of L Brands, which once included Victoria’s Secret, has a net worth of $9.8 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. In 2021, the lingerie chain parted ways with Wexner after he came under scrutiny for his past business relationship with Jeffrey Epstein, the sex offender who died in jail awaiting trial on additional charges.