Some of our most successful programming is led by Harvard undergraduates, who bring visitors on one-of-a-kind tours. An incredibly generous gift by George Ho (A.B. ’90), Henry Ho (A.B. ’95), and Rosalind “Sasa” Wang will bolster the work of these talented student ambassadors, now known as Ho Family Student Guides.
The $1 million gift—called the Ho Family Student Guide Fund—will provide financial support for needs ranging from compensation and training to research opportunities. The gift will advance the development of each student, said David Odo, the museums’ director of student programs and research curator for university initiatives. Typically, there are around two dozen participants in the program, representing a diverse array of backgrounds and academic concentrations. The application process is competitive and is open to all undergraduates.
“The Ho Family Student Guide Program offers students the opportunity to both study and interpret art within the unique contexts of their respective academic disciplines, their knowledge of artistic practice, and their personal experiences,” Odo said. “By empowering students at this early stage of their careers to develop their own research-based interpretations, we hope to foster in them a lifelong passion for the arts.”
A Family Affair
Supporting such a multifaceted program makes perfect sense for the Ho family, which has a tradition of active engagement with the arts. Henry C. Ho is the chairman and CEO of Tung Ho Steel Enterprise Corporation in Taipei, Taiwan. Under his leadership, in 2013 the Tung Ho Steel Foundation, in collaboration with the National Culture and Arts Foundation of Taiwan, established the Tung Ho Steel International Artist Residency Program. Through this innovative program, artists utilize steel scraps as creative material. The foundation also sponsors the Kaohsiung International Steel & Iron Sculpture Festival, the FORMOSA Sculpture Biennial, and the International Shoebox Sculpture Exhibition.
Henry’s brother, George Y. Ho, is an important artist in Taiwan, and their mother is the founder of a contemporary Chinese art gallery. Henry’s spouse, Sasa, is a volunteer docent at the National Palace Museum in Taipei and founded a program at a local international school that trains and places high school students as junior docents in the National Palace Museum.
With a plan to make a gift in support of the arts at Harvard, Henry Ho visited the Harvard Art Museums in 2018. After meeting with Odo and Martha Tedeschi, the museums’ Elizabeth and John Moors Cabot Director, he was given tours by several student guides. The students’ expertise and enthusiasm left such an impression that Ho opted to dedicate his family’s entire gift to creating the Ho Family Student Guide Fund.
“I was particularly intrigued by the perspective presented by the non-art students,” said Henry Ho. “They developed new interpretations that augmented the traditional understanding of the artist’s work. A different dialogue was created in the process, which allowed the museum visitors to have a new experience. I think the Student Guide Program is a great manifestation of Harvard’s cross-disciplinary education at work.”
For current Ho Family Student Guides, the gift has palpable significance. More than a vote of confidence in each participant’s abilities as tour guides, the fund will enhance the quality of training students receive. The program offers a rigorous introduction to public speaking, research, and critical thinking. It also gives students the freedom to explore and share their own interests through their tours, which have had such unique themes as representations of “others,” archetypes in art, and problem solving.
Preparatory work for these tours—conducting intensive research, meeting with curators, and practicing with peers—is a major component of the program. The experience has even influenced some past participants to pursue related post-graduate education and careers. (Read about a few of them here and here.)
Former student guide Ariana Chaivaranon ’18 said she discovered a new dimension of Harvard through the program. “To have a space where we [student guides] can meet and talk in a semi-formal way, and hear each other’s ideas about art, is really exciting and . . . an unparalleled experience on campus,” she said.
Thanks to the Ho Family Student Guide Fund, new generations of Harvard students can have similarly eye-opening experiences. And, of course, visitors reap the benefits every time they take a tour.
Check our calendar for upcoming dates of tours by Ho Family Student Guides. Tours are free with museums admission, limited to 15 people, and available on a first-come, first-served basis (no registration required).