This year’s HKS Fund Outstanding Alumni Award goes to two pathbreaking women who have worked in government and the private sector: Harriett “Tee” Taggart MCP 1973 (above, left) and Hien Dao MPP 2005 (above, right). Their consistent generosity to the HKS Fund has enhanced the experience of countless HKS students.
Taggart has donated to the School every year for more than two decades. One reason for her generosity is that she has personally experienced the benefits of internships as both a student and an employer—and the HKS Fund provides essential support for interns. Says Taggart, “Particularly for a professional school, many students come in with a fair amount of work experience under their belts, but trying something different and without committing to a career decision gives students an opportunity to explore areas that they might not otherwise.”
Her own internship was at the Massachusetts state legislature, where she worked before, during, and after her time at HKS. “It was a seminal period in trying to rebuild urban neighborhoods,” she says. “I became very involved in home-mortgage financing in city neighborhoods, particularly for minority communities.” She went on to earn her PhD in planning and capital markets from MIT, then forged a path in finance, where she focused initially on high-yield credit—a new concept in 1983.
She later was one of just a few women serving on the boards of directors of public companies. Today, she continues to serve as an engaged trustee and advisor on a number of nonprofit boards. Her many interests include helping women advance to senior leadership positions, enhancing educational opportunities for girls and people of color in the STEM fields, and combating climate change.
Hien’s career, too, has included diverse chapters. She started out as a journalist, first in her native Vietnam and later in Africa and North America. Of her switch to public policy, she says, “I felt like there were so many problems in the world, and we kept writing about them over and over and nothing seemed to change. I wanted to be involved in solutions, so I decided to go back to school to study policy and government.”
A consistent donor to the HKS Fund for a decade, Hien understands the collective impact of many gifts. “The first time that I left Vietnam to go abroad to study, for my first master’s degree [in journalism] at Columbia, I received donations from so many people who just wanted to help. Friends organized campaigns and even people I had never met would donate $10, $50, or whatnot.”
After graduating from HKS, Hien worked in city government in New York, first as a senior analyst in the office of Mayor Mike Bloomberg and then as a director and policy advisor for the city’s finance commissioner. Today, she is back in Vietnam, directing a school system with 3,000 students and chairing Golden Path Academics, the company she founded in 2012 to help Vietnamese students receive a well-rounded education and enter college in a globalized world.
Hien is involved at HKS beyond her generosity to the HKS Fund. She has served on the School’s Alumni Board; she started and led the Harvard Club of Vietnam; and she is now involved in the Harvard Business School Advisory Board for the Asia-Pacific region.
“I have benefited a great deal from my education at Harvard, and also continue to believe that the School plays a really important role in educating policymakers, leaders, and responsible citizens,” she says. “I really want to support that in whatever way I can.”
Photography by Harriett “Tee” Taggart and Hien Dao.