Good news for folks at Harvard. A huge jump in the value of the endowment of the country’s wealthiest university means that maybe, just maybe, students will get their hot breakfasts back, and complimentary cookies will return to faculty meetings.

The student newspaper, the Harvard Crimson, reported that the endowment shot up 21.4 percent for fiscal 2011, reaching $32 billion. That’s approaching the $36.9 billion — an all-time high — that it was worth before the country fell into a financial crisis in 2008.

The news was part of the annual report released today by the Harvard Management Co., which manages the endowment.
Harvard, the wealthiest university in the United States and maybe the knowable universe, saw its endowment drop 30 percent — to $26 billion — from June 2008 to June 2009.

Because of that, the people who manage the Harvard budget decided two years ago that some things had to go, things such as hot oatmeal in most of the dorms, pastries at the library and free cookies for faculty meetings. It was also reported at the time that varsity athletes could not be certain that their sweat suits would be given to them free of charge.

Why a $26 billion endowment wasn’t enough to maintain those luxuries was never quite clear.

The loss of the hot breakfasts hit the athletes especially hard, according to this October 2009 story in the New York Times, which quoted junior Johnny Bowman as saying: “It was a big shock. Athletes were accustomed to coming back from early morning practice and getting their nutrients — a solid meal.”

Maybe it’s no wonder that the first comment on the Harvard Crimson Web site under the story was this:
“Does this mean that we can have hot breakfast again?”

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