What Knowledge is Useful? > History
Saga of a professorship
The Straus Brothers were all Harvard men: Jesse was a member of the class of 1893; Percy, the class of 1897; and Herbert, the class of 1903. Like their father Isidor—the retailing genius who built Macy’s into the world’s largest department store—they were also businessmen. After Isidor and his wife died in the Titanic disaster, their three sons established an endowment at HBS in their memory.
In 1924, when the campaign to build a new HBS campus was announced, the Strauses immediately pledged $300,000 to construct a dormitory. But three months later, George F. Baker gave a gift to build the entire HBS campus, and the Straus family volunteered to build a dormitory in Harvard Yard instead, and direct the income from that dormitory, and from their previous gift, to support the “Straus Professorship” at HBS.
But in 1927, when the School sought to appoint the first incumbent to the professorship, the combined income from Straus Hall and the family’s 1912 gift wasn’t adequate to attract N. S. B. Gras, the eminent economic historian with whom both Dean Donham and Jesse Straus had become impressed. The Straus family therefore agreed to provide an additional $3,500 annually to create and fund the “Isidor Straus Professorship in Business History,” to which Gras was subsequently appointed. At the end of 1930, the three brothers capitalized this annual giving by making a gift HBS of $70,000.