Harriet and Elihu Inselbuch Build a Scholarship Fund

Their once-small fund has grown into something big

By Lynette Lamb

Photo by Ambika Singh

An endowed fund whose interest underwrites an individual scholarship each year, the Harriet and Elihu Inselbuch Scholarship Fund now approaches $800,000. Who would have known that it began as a four-figure gift by Harriet Kaye Inselbuch ’62 on the occasion of her 30th Reunion?

A professional fundraiser herself, Inselbuch created the fund because, as her class’s fundraising cochair that Reunion year, she felt she “should lead by example.” At that time, an alumna could start a scholarship with a $5,000 gift and a commitment for $25,000 total, which is exactly how this fund, originally called the Harriet Kaye Inselbuch Scholarship Fund, began. (Today, a $100,000 commitment is required.) About six years after she made her first donation, in 1998, the first recipient of the Inselbuch scholarship was chosen.

Over the years, Harriet and her husband, Elihu, continued contributing to her fund, and anytime one of her children wanted to give her a gift, “I told them they didn’t need to worry about finding the right present for me—they could just give to the scholarship,” she says. After her fund hit the $25,000 mark in 1998, “my next goal was to get it to $100,000.” Her motivation was simple: “Barnard opens up a whole new world to young women,” Inselbuch says.

Having set a new goal, in late 2016, she decided that the fund should include her husband’s name. So she contacted Barnard and changed the scholarship’s name to the one it has today.

Fast forward about a year to November 2017, when Elihu announced his March 2018 retirement from the New York– and Washington DC–based law firm of Caplin & Drysdale. “He had a very loyal group of clients who wanted to make contributions in his honor,” Harriet says. Although many colleagues assumed his alma mater—Princeton—would be his charity of choice, Elihu instead chose Barnard, in part because he felt the gifts would make a bigger impact at a smaller institution.

At his retirement party last spring, Elihu’s clients and friends announced that they had raised $322,000 in his honor. “We were blown away,” Harriet says. “I knew his clients liked him. But I was astonished that they would be so generous.”

And there was more good news to come: Most of those gifts were matched by the $10 million scholarship challenge grant that Diana T. Vagelos ’55 and P. Roy Vagelos, MD, ’54PS initiated in the spring of 2017. The challenge grant, which matched dollar-for-dollar every gift of $5,000 or more, increased the value of the Inselbuchs’ scholarship by another $290,000.

The Vagelos’s generous challenge grant inspired Harriet to make another contribution to the Inselbuch fund herself. The scholarship fund is in her will, too, she notes.

Harriet Kaye was a twelve-year-old girl from Philadelphia the first time she saw Barnard College. At the time, she says, Philadelphia was a socially stratified, stultifying city, and even at twelve she was eager to escape it. “When we visited an aunt of mine in Manhattan and I saw Barnard,” she remembers, “I thought to myself, ‘This is perfect. This is where I belong.’”

Although not a scholarship student herself, Harriet has long recognized the power of philanthropy, having worked in fundraising for United Cerebral Palsy and the American Lung Association, among other nonprofits. “I believe in giving back, and in focusing your philanthropy on what’s important to you,” she says.

For her and her husband, Barnard is one of those priorities. “I felt so lucky to be there,” Inselbuch says of her time on campus. “It was exhilarating being in New York, being free. I would like to share that opportunity with other women.”

Latest IssueSummer 2020

Read more about how the Barnard community is staying connected during these challenging times, from the College’s virtual “Reunion Reimagined” to in-depth conversations with alums Lida Orzeck ’68 and Maryam Banikarim ’89, P’21.  To access Class Notes, click here