Harvard professors kept meeting with donor Jeffrey Epstein despite his sex offender status

WASHINGTON — Disgraced hedge fund manager Jeffrey Epstein was attending on-campus meetings as recently as 2014 with professors at Harvard University, a school he had supported with at least one multimillion-dollar donation, even though the registered sex offender's ties to the school had already raised questions.

Epstein, who donated $6.5 million to Harvard's Program for Evolutionary Dynamics in 2003, had phone calls, meetings and meals with members of the Harvard faculty at least six times in 2014, according to the online personal calendar of Dr. George Church, a renowned geneticist who holds professorships at Harvard, Harvard Medical School and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

On April 22, Epstein met with Church at the Harvard Medical School's Genetics Department building, according to the calendar. The two had a phone call the next day. He had lunch with Church on June 21, according to the calendar. The entry for the note also includes the notation "Martin Nowak's Institute."

Nowak, a Harvard professor of biology and mathematics, is the director of the Program for Evolutionary Dynamics, the project to which Epstein donated. The program, which Nowak runs from an office suite at 1 Brattle Square in Cambridge, Massachusetts, applies math to genetics to seek cures for cancer and other diseases. Epstein has represented himself as a co-founder of the program.

On Sept. 12, Epstein and Church had another phone call, which was followed by a teleconference call Oct. 21 between Epstein and Church that also included James Clement, an independent biomedical researcher who specializes in longevity.

On Nov. 30, the calendar lists a dinner with multiple attendees: "Dinner w/ Jeff Epstein, Joi Ito, Reid Hoffman and Martin Nowak, 8pm, Martin Nowak's institute, 1 Brattle Square, Suite 6, Cambridge, MA." The address matches the address for the Program for Evolutionary Dynamics.

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NEW YORK, NY - JULY 08: US Attorney for the Southern District of New York Geoffrey Berman announces charges against Jeffery Epstein on July 8, 2019 in New York City. Epstein will be charged with one count of sex trafficking of minors and one count of conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking of minors. (Photo by Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JULY 08: US Attorney for the Southern District of New York Geoffrey Berman announces charges against billionaire financier Jeffery Epstein on July 8, 2019 in New York City. Epstein will be charged with one count of sex trafficking of minors and one count of conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking of minors. (Photo by Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JULY 08: Two of the purported victims of multi-millionaire Jeffrey Epstein, Michelle Licata (L) and Courtney Wild leave a Manhattan court house after a hearing on sex trafficking charges for financier Jeffrey Epstein on July 08, 2019 in New York City. Epstein is charged with having operated a sex trafficking ring in which he sexually abused dozens of underage girls. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JULY 08: Two of Jeffrey Epstein's alleged victims, Michelle Licata (L) and Courtney Wild (R), exit the courthouse after the billionaire financier appeared for a hearing on July 8, 2019 in New York City. According to reports, Epstein will be charged with one count of sex trafficking of minors and one count of conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking of minors. (Photo by Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)
In this courtroom artist's sketch, defendant Jeffrey Epstein, center, sits with attorneys Martin Weinberg, left, and Marc Fernich during his arraignment in New York federal court, Monday, July 8, 2019. Epstein pleaded not guilty to federal sex trafficking charges. The 66-year-old is accused of creating and maintaining a network that allowed him to sexually exploit and abuse dozens of underage girls from 2002 to 2005. (Elizabeth Williams via AP)
NEW YORK, US - JULY 08: David Boies, attorney for the alleged sex victims of the US financier Jeffreey Epstein case, delivers a speech to the media outside the United States Federal Court on July 08, 2019 in New York, United States. (Photo by Atilgan Ozdil/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JULY 08: A residence belonging to Jeffrey Epstein at East 71st street is seen on the Upper East Side of Manhattan on July 8, 2019 in New York City. According to reports, Epstein is charged with running a sex-trafficking operation out of his opulent mansion. (Photo by Kevin Hagen/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JULY 08: Prosecutors exit the room after US Attorney for the Southern District of New York Geoffrey Berman announces charges against Jeffery Epstein on July 8, 2019 in New York City. Epstein will be charged with one count of sex trafficking of minors and one count of conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking of minors. (Photo by Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JULY 08: Member of the press listen as US Attorney for the Southern District of New York Geoffrey Berman announces charges against Jeffery Epstein on July 8, 2019 in New York City. Epstein will be charged with one count of sex trafficking of minors and one count of conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking of minors. (Photo by Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JULY 08: A protest group called "Hot Mess" hold up signs of Jeffrey Epstein and President Donald Trump in front of the Federal courthouse on July 8, 2019 in New York City. According to reports, Epstein will be charged with one count of sex trafficking of minors and one count of conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking of minors. (Photo by Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)
United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York Geoffrey Berman speaks during a news conference, in New York, Monday, July 8, 2019. Federal prosecutors announced sex trafficking and conspiracy charges against wealthy financier Jeffrey Epstein. Court documents unsealed Monday show Epstein is charged with creating and maintaining a network that allowed him to sexually exploit and abuse dozens of underage girls.(AP Photo/Richard Drew)
In this courtroom sketch, defendant Jeffrey Epstein, second from right, listens along with defense attorneys, from left, Marc Fernich, Michael Miller, and Martin Weinberg as Judge Richard M. Berman denies him bail during a hearing in federal court, Thursday, July 18, 2019 in New York. Judge Berman denied bail for the jailed financier on sex trafficking charges, saying the danger to the community that would result if the jet-setting defendant was free formed the "heart of this decision." (Aggie Kenny via AP)
FILE - This March 28, 2017, file photo, provided by the New York State Sex Offender Registry shows Jeffrey Epstein. A judge denied bail for jailed financier Jeffrey Epstein on sex trafficking charges Thursday, July 18, 2019, saying the danger to the community that would result if the jet-setting defendant was free formed the "heart of this decision." (New York State Sex Offender Registry via AP)
In this courtroom sketch, Judge Richard M. Berman speaking as he denies Jeffrey Epstein bail during a hearing in federal court, Thursday, July 18, 2019 in New York. Judge Berman denied bail for the jailed financier on sex trafficking charges, saying the danger to the community that would result if the jet-setting defendant was free formed the "heart of this decision." (Aggie Kenny via AP)
In this courtroom artist's sketch, defendant Jeffrey Epstein, left, and his attorney Martin Weinberg listen during a bail hearing in federal court, Monday, July 15, 2019 in New York. Epstein's lawyers want him released on house arrest to his Manhattan home while he awaits trial. (Elizabeth Williams via AP)
This courtroom sketch shows Judge Richard Berman as he speaks during the Jeffrey Epstein bail hearing in federal court, Monday July 15, 2019. (Elizabeth Williams via AP)
In this courtroom artist's sketch, defendant Jeffrey Epstein, left, listens as accuser Annie Farmer, second from right, speaks during a bail hearing in federal court, Monday, July 15, 2019 in New York. Farmer says she was 16 when she "had the misfortune" of meeting Epstein and later went to spend time with him in New Mexico. Accuser Courtney Wild, right, said in the hearing that she was abused by the wealthy financier in Palm Beach, Florida, starting at age 14. Epstein's lawyers want him released on house arrest to his Manhattan home while he awaits trial. (Elizabeth Williams via AP)
In this courtroom artist's sketch, defendant Jeffrey Epstein, left, and attorney Reid Weingarten, second from right, listen as attorney Martin Weinberg, right, speaks during a bail hearing in federal court, Monday, July 15, 2019 in New York. Epstein's lawyers have insisted he will not run. They want him released on house arrest to his Manhattan home while he awaits trial. Courtney Wild, third from left, said in the hearing that she was abused by the wealthy financier in Palm Beach, Florida, starting at age 14. She called him a "scary person" and urged detention "for the safety of any other girls" out there. (Elizabeth Williams via AP)
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Ito is an entrepreneur and journalist. Hoffman is a venture capitalist and the co-founder of Linkedin.

Church, Ito, Nowak and Clement did not respond to requests for comment. Church did not respond to questions about who else might have attended the meetings and whether "Martin Nowak's institute" refers to the Program for Evolutionary Dynamics. Hoffman declined to comment.

All the meetings were presumably related to genetics research. It is not known whether any of the participants were aware of Epstein's status as a registered sex offender.

Epstein is now facing separate federal sex trafficking charges in New York.

Lawyers for Epstein did not respond to a request for comment.

Church's 2014 calendar, which was attached to his personal website, was temporarily removed from the internet after NBC News made inquiries to Harvard. It was then restored to the site but in a less prominent position. The calendar link on the site now defaults to a current 2019 schedule.

A Harvard official told NBC News the university does not control whom faculty members meet with or whom they talk to.

In 2006, after the public learned of state and federal investigations into Epstein's alleged sexual contacts with minors, a Harvard spokesperson told a reporter for the campus newspaper that the university would not be returning Epstein's $6.5 million gift. The Harvard Crimson article also noted that when Epstein made his initial donation, he had "agreed to consider raising his total contribution to $30 million after a review of the program's progress." As of 2006, according to the Crimson article, the University said that review had not occurred.

Epstein touted his affiliation with Harvard long after agreeing to federal and state plea deals, pleading guilty to a single state charge and registering as a sex offender in 2008. A bio published on the web in 2014 by Epstein's foundation said, "Mr. Epstein is the founder of the Program for Evolutionary Dynamics at Harvard University… the Program has developed critical mathematical models of how viruses and cancer cells evolve." In a 2003 Vanity Fair article that referred to "the Epstein Program for Mathematical Biology and Evolutionary Dynamics" at Harvard, Epstein said he was reluctant to have his name attached to the program, but Harvard President Larry Summers "persuaded" him.

A Harvard source said the Program for Evolutionary Dynamics has never borne Epstein's name.

Epstein's press releases have repeatedly referred to a $30 million gift he made to Harvard in 2000. A Harvard source familiar with Epstein's donations was unaware of any significant gift to Harvard other than his initial $6.5 million donation in 2003.

A Harvard spokesperson said that the university does not comment on specific gifts.

Harvard declined comment in December 2018 when the Crimson again asked if the school would return Epstein's money.

Epstein, who has been photographed wearing Harvard gear, did not attend the university. He attended Cooper Union and New York University without graduating.

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