HKS Donation Will Double Number of Case Studies

A recent donation of $500,000 will give the Harvard Kennedy School’s Case Program an opportunity to expand its resources.

It is estimated that the gift—donated by HKS and Harvard Law School alumnus Joseph B. Tompkins, Jr.—will nearly double the output of case studies from previous years, said John D. Donahue, faculty chair of the HKS Master’s in Public Policy program.

Donahue added that although HKS boasts the world’s largest library of cases on issues relating to the public sector and non-profits—with the current collection numbering in the thousands—many of them are antiquated and outdated.

“This is very possibly the largest donation in the Case Program’s history,” he said. “Soon the students will have more sophisticated cases to work with.”

“Without those types of funds, we wouldn’t be able to conduct effective case teaching,” added business and agriculture professor Ray A. Goldberg. “We would be in a great deal of difficulty.”


According to Donahue, Tompkins was motivated to donate due to his own personal experiences with case-based teaching.

“The case method changed [Tompkins’] way of thinking and contributed to his success,” Donahue said. “He wanted to give back so that the students would have the same experience.“

The Case Program is a unit of HKS that produces teaching cases used in the classroom. The case studies are predominantly produced by a group of professional case writers, but a smaller proportion—typically those involving non-profit and public service issues—have been written by faculty members and students.

Although the cases are primarily produced for Harvard students, they have also been made available to many other universities in recent years.

“We’re in the process of distributing the cases through the Harvard Business School, and we’re currently ramping up our distribution system,” Donahue said.

Tompkins, who graduated from the Law School in 1974 and HKS in 1975, is currently a partner at Sidley Austin LLP, a major international law firm. He has previously worked as the Deputy Chief of the Fraud Section of the U.S. Department of Justice.

Throughout the years, Tompkins has maintained his involvement with HKS through his participation in various advisory committees.

“What is remarkable about Mr. Tompkins is that he reached out to us to donate and we didn’t need to reach out to him, which is uncommon of donors.” Donahue said. “He’s not interested in publicity, or any sort of personal advancement, he just cares about this mission.”

—Staff writer Mark Guzman can be reached at