Believing that today’s complex problems require interdisciplinary solutions and innovative, technology-based thinking, Thomas S. Roberts (MBA 1989) and his wife, Kristen, were intrigued by the idea of helping Harvard undergraduates with a passion for technology and entrepreneurship become future leaders of innovative ventures. So, the Roberts are excited to be supporting the Undergraduate Technology Innovation Fellows Program and have committed $10 million from their family foundation to endow the new program. The gift is in honor of Tom’s 30th and 35th Harvard Business School (HBS) reunions.
A collaboration between HBS and the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS), the program will provide 10 to 15 outstanding juniors (from any academic concentration) annually with access to resources normally reserved for graduate students—such as the HBS Startup Bootcamp, selected MBA electives, and special seminars. The first cohort of students, who will be known as Roberts Family Fellows, was selected in January from more than 60 applicants.
“Traditional career hierarchy has completely eroded, and for the better,” says Tom Roberts. “If you have the right idea, the right answers, the right content, there’s no reason you can’t go make a really substantial impact when you’re 24 instead of 44.” Kristen Roberts adds, “These young people have great ideas and drive, but they don’t necessarily have the skills, knowledge, or connections to execute yet. We’re excited to see what they will do.”
HBS Dean Nitin Nohria believes the program will be a catalyst in developing a new generation of technology entrepreneurs—an area increasingly crucial to business and society. “By exposing undergraduates to management principles, we hope to change the leadership trajectory of even more individuals of tremendous promise earlier in their lives and careers,” he explains.
“Harvard undergraduates are innately curious, innovative, and passionate about making a difference in the world—and many of them are driven to create,” says SEAS Dean Frank Doyle. “Thanks to the generous support of the Roberts family, this program will equip a cohort of remarkable students with new skills and knowledge to realize their entrepreneurial dreams.”
Tom Roberts’ interest and expertise in technology was honed over nearly 30 years in the business. A magna cum laude graduate of Princeton University, Roberts worked in consulting at Booz Allen for several years before graduating from HBS as a Baker Scholar. He then joined Summit Partners, a private equity firm based in Boston, where he served in a wide range of roles, including managing partner and executive committee member. He also served as board director of more than 30 public and private companies. He recently retired from Summit and founded Equality Asset Management, a private equity firm focusing on technology and health care.