On Feb. 23, 1910, the Harvard Board of Overseers approved a Department of University Extension. That pioneering step made it possible for Boston-area schoolteachers, clerks, and foremen to work toward a Harvard degree at night, studying with the same professors who during the day guided America’s academic elite. In the first year of classes (1910-11), 863 students registered — a number that a century later averages 14,000 students a year, from 122 countries.
Centennial celebrations begin this fall for what is now called the Harvard University Extension School, which since 1910 has drawn about 500,000 men and women to its graduate and collegiate courses. A private convocation will be held Sept. 25, and a public panel on the future of technology is slated for Nov. 18.
The Extension School’s long-ago origins reside in the two iconic images on its crest: a sheaf of wheat and an oil lamp. The first is a reminder that precursor courses at Harvard’s Lowell Institute could cost no more than the value of two bushels of wheat. The second recalls the rigor of night study.
For more on the centennial, go to www.extension.harvard.edu/centennial/.