Back To The Barricades

For the first time in a generation, student activism is on the rise. Do these new protesters have anything like the zeal, the conviction, and the clout of their famous 1960s predecessors?

Some 30 years since the storied generation of Vietnam-era student activists began to graduate and disperse into the grown-up world, American universities seem to be emerging once again as a theater for protest and political engagement. Galvanized by debates over free trade and globalization, college students have lent critical muscle to efforts by labor and environmental groups aimed at raising public consciousness about the social costs of an unfettered market. Read more »

Inventing Modern Football

SMU isn’t playing this season; men on the team were accepting money from alumni. That’s bad, of course; but today’s game grew out of even greater scandal.

During October of 1905, President Theodore Roosevelt, who had recently intervened in a national coal strike and the Russo-Japanese War, turned his formidable attention to another kind of struggle. The President, a gridiron enthusiast who avidly followed the fortunes of his alma mater, Harvard, summoned representatives of the Eastern football establishment—Harvard, Yale, and Princeton—to the White House. He wanted to discuss brutality and the lack of sportsmanship in college play. Read more »

Where Would Emerson Find His Scholar Now?

His speech was called “our intellectual Declaration of Independence.” Its theme was the universe itself; its hero, Man Thinking. Now, one hundred and seventy-five years later, a noted scholar sees Emerson’s great vision as both more beleaguered and more urgent than ever.

ON AUGUST 31, 1837, THE DAY AFTER COMMENCEMENT—they don’t seem to have gone in for vacations in those earnest times—the academic year at Harvard was ushered in with Ralph Waldo Emerson’s address to Phi Beta Kappa on a stock topic, “The American Scholar.” The meeting was held in the First Parish Church, on the exact spot where Anne Hutchinson had been examined for heresy two centuries before. Read more »

”…to Thy Jubilee Throng”

On Harvard’s 350th anniversary, a distinguished alumnus salutes his proud and often thorny alma mater

This September Harvard University will observe the 350th anniversary of its founding. It will do so with ceremony only somewhat less resplendent than the celebration of its tercentenary in 1936. For four days, indoors and out, oration and proclamation, festschrifts and fireworks, a brass band, a symphony orchestra, and a procession of crimson gowns and hoods will assert the ancience, the eminence, and the permanence of our country’s oldest, richest, and, some argue, foremost university. In 1936 Franklin D.Read more »

The Long, Happy Life Of ‘bartlett’s Quotations’

It is the repository of the wisdom and poetry
of the world. Its editor tells the story of how it came into being and how it stays there
.

NO ONE IN 1855 could have foreseen that a modest little volume of 258 pages, bound in cardboard and the size of a postcard, would mushroom into the immense tome of 1600 pages that serves as a cornerstone of most libraries in the English-speaking world. Familiar Quotations was the creation of John Bartlett, for whom—to paraphrase Melville’s remark about the whaleship being Ishmael’s Yale and Harvard—the University Book Store in Cambridge was college. Read more »

My Radcliffe

The author recalls two generations of “Cliffie” life—hers and her mother’s—in the years when male and female education took place on opposite sides of the Cambridge Common and women were expected to wear hats in Harvard Square

My mother was a member of the class of 1899 at Radcliffe College, having come east from St. Paul, Minnesota—a sort of reverse pioneer. She was one of the two or three students from west of the Berkshires and was considered rather exotic by her classmates because of her Midwestern background, which she loved to describe in exaggerated detail, implying that a fresh Indian scalp was hung over the fireplace every week or so. Her years at Radcliffe were, it seems, passed in a state of continual euphoria.Read more »

Eliot Of Harvard

A stern but brilliant Yankee revolutionized American higher education while president of our oldest university

Charles William Eliot cast a long shadow for a good many of his descendants, naturally enough. As a great-grandchild of his I felt it, too. The summers of my earliest boyhood, at Northeast Harbor, Maine, were spent partly in his austere presence. When he died in 1926, at ninety-two, I was only seven; and yet an incident that occurred only a day or two before his death is still extremely vivid in my memory. My elder sister and I, together with a couple of cousins, had been called into the old gentleman’s sickroom to entertain him with a song.Read more »

Too Many Philosophers

When Winifred Smith Rieber confidently agreed to paint a group portrait of America’s five pre-eminent philosophers, she had no idea it would be all but impossible even to get them to stay in the same room with one another.

Mother was off again, this time to New England to paint the Harvard philosophy department—all five of its members, and on a single canvas. Mother had known the Harvard philosophers before, but only slightly, when my father had studied under them during his graduate years.Read more »

Theodore Roosevelt, Feminist

“Viewed purely in the abstract, I think there can be no question that women should have equal rights with men …I would have the word ‘obey’ used no more by the wife than by the husband.”

”I first saw her on October 18, 1878, and loved her as soon as I saw her sweet, fair young face. …” Thus Theodore Roosevelt wrote of Alice Hathaway Lee, the girl he married in 1880 when he was twenty-two and she nineteen—tall and lithe, with curly light hair and “dovegray” eyes; “beautiful in face and form,” he said, “and lovelier still in spirit.…” T.R. wooed her with all the impetuous gusto for which he was later famous, and the wedding took place soon after he graduated from Harvard. Read more »

The Four Ages Of Joseph Choate

He was promising at 25, prominent at 45, esteemed at 65, venerated at 85

I had quite a compliment on the street. As I was crossing the Avenue near the Capitol a very good looking man who was spinning by on a bicycle suddenly stopped and jumped off, and said ‘Isn’t this Mr. Choate?’ I said ‘Yes.’ ‘Well,’ he went on, Tm a lawyer and I only stopped to pay my respects, recognizing you by your photographs, and I wanted to say that I esteem you just as much as all the rest of the lawyers in the country do,’ and upon that he remounted and was off again before I could even find out who he was.” Read more »