September 09, 2009
Finn M.W. Caspersen ’66, who chaired the Dean’s Advisory Board at Harvard Law School and led the school’s recent Setting the Standard fundraising campaign to a record-breaking end, died Monday in Rhode Island at the age of 67.
“Finn Caspersen once said that Harvard Law School challenged him to think, and he in turn became an extraordinary friend and supporter of the school and its mission,” said HLS Dean Martha Minow. “Our hearts go out to his family and friends as we mourn the loss of a visionary believer in the power of education.”
Caspersen was former chief executive of the financial services firm Beneficial Corporation. Recently, he was chairman of the board and CEO of Knickerbocker Management, a private management firm that oversees the assets of various trusts, foundations, and individuals.
Known for his philanthropic work, Caspersen led the Law School’s “Setting the Standard” campaign, which raised over $476 million by the time of its conclusion last year, exceeding its goal and making it the largest and most successful campaign in the history of legal education.
Last October, Caspersen was given the Harvard Law School Association Award, the highest honor bestowed upon HLS alumni, for his leadership and support of the school over the years. Former Dean Elena Kagan ’86 announced that the student center wing of the new Northwest Corner Building, which is currently under construction on the HLS campus, will be named in his honor. The wing will be home to student organizations, journals, and social activities.
“Finn has been an extraordinary leader of this Law School for many years,” said Kagan in presenting Caspersen with the HLSA Award. “Finn was involved in this campaign from the vision of it, to the details of it, every day for the last eight years. He has been a rock, a source of endless strength and support and knowledge.”
In addition to his leadership of the campaign, Caspersen has endowed two professorships at Harvard Law School—the Beneficial Professorship of Law, and the Finn M.W. Caspersen and Household International Professorship of Law. A special collections room in Langdell Library bears the Caspersen name.
Caspersen has served in important leadership roles at all of his alma maters. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Brown, where he later served as a trustee. A graduate of the Peddie School in New Jersey, Caspersen was a member of the school’s Board of Trustees since 1970. Other institutions that benefitted from his dedication to education include the Hodson Trust, Drew University and the New Jersey State Board of Higher Education.
Caspersen is survived by his wife Barbara, and by four sons: Finn M.W. Caspersen, Jr. ’95, Erik M.W. Caspersen ’96, Samuel M.W. Caspersen ’99, and Andrew W.W. Caspersen ’03.
Funeral arrangements are pending.
Education was at the heart of Caspersen’s philanthropic interests. As he told the Harvard Law Bulletin last year, “If there’s any one area of charitable endeavor that should be highlighted, it’s education, because it’s an investment in the future—an investment in human capital. I’ve been active in a range of other things, but education has always been my particular love…”