Constructed in 1930, Lowell House was named for the Lowell family, closely identified with Harvard since John Lowell graduated in 1721. Harvard President Abbott Lawrence Lowell (1909-33) instituted the House system, tutorials, subject concentrations, and reading periods. His bust and that of poet James Russell Lowell are in the House’s main courtyard. In the dining hall are portraits of President Lowell and his wife; his sister Amy Lowell, the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet; and his brother Percival Lowell, the astronomer who spearheaded the search for the planet Pluto.
The House community contains 400 undergraduates, approximately 25 resident tutors and scholars drawn from Harvard’s graduate and professional Schools, and more than 75 affiliated faculty members and visiting scholars. House Masters Diana Eck, the Fredric Wertham Professor of Law and Psychiatry in Society and a member of the Faculty of Divinity, and Dorothy Austin, Sedgwick Associate Minister in the Memorial Church and University chaplain, are only the fifth masters officeholders in nearly 70 years, a testament to the House’s durability and richness. Lowell’s legacy includes the annual Lowell House Opera, the black-tie dinners known as High Tables, the famous 5 o’clock Thursday Teas in the Masters’ Residence, and the 1 p.m. Sunday ringing of the Russian Bells in Lowell’s tower.
At a recent High Table dinner, members of the old guard such as Diana Stewart, whose husband, Zeph, was the House’s third master, and Maurice Pechet, who began as a senior tutor back in 1948, mingled with current residents scarcely a quarter their age. Impromptu piano playing from singer Livingston Taylor, a former artist-in-residence, punctuated the conversation, which then stopped altogether as twins Danielle and Arielle Rabinowitz ’14 performed a riveting piano duet that had the audience spellbound in rapt silence. Gradually, talk resumed, guests went to the dining room to exchange ideas over an elegant dinner, and another memorable evening was being etched in the annals of the rich Lowell House tradition.