Campus & Community

Colleagues, friends, remember Epps:

5 min read

Was 'iconic dean of students'

It was a stroke of genius on [former Dean of the College] John Munro’s part to bring Archie, then a young divinity student, into the College dean’s office in 1964. Throughout his long tenure there, Archie gave everything of himself to the College and to its students. His firm, often very firm, guidance as well as his deep sympathy for those in difficulty benefited very many students of all backgrounds, as well as the College itself. The multifaceted extracurricular life of the College flourished under his leadership, although his deepest interests were always musical. Archie gave me strong personal support when I was dean of the College. Ever since, I have considered him the closest of colleagues and the greatest of friends.

John B. Fox Jr., secretary of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences

People have often reflected, in these past days, of the image of Archie walking across the Yard as someone would perambulate across his own garden or over his patch of ground. That is true, but I never thought of Archie as walking: Archie glided like a great ship in full sail. Archie was grounded but his feet never touched the ground, and there was something remarkably reassuring about his mere presence. In him we found something of the best of our College’s aspirations, for he was no mere administrator, no decanal custodian of the status quo, but a work of art, God’s work of art, in which was reflected the best of our hopes for the good life intended for us as individuals and as a community.

Rev. Professor Peter J. Gomes, the Plummer Professor of Christian Morals and Pusey Minister in the Memorial Church, in his address at Epps’ funeral service

It is hard to imagine Harvard Yard without Archie Epps walking it. He was an influential presence on campus for nearly 40 years. A much beloved teacher and dean, he was a friend of students, of faculty, and of Harvard. He will be missed.

William C. Kirby, dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences

Archie Epps was a quintessential dean of students. He guided the College with a steadying hand through turbulent seas and calm waters, he nudged the administration with wisdom and vast experience, and he elicited true affection and respect from them both. For 40 years, Archie was an impeccable presence in the Yard, and a warm-hearted figure of reasonableness and concern for us all. He was wise but never heavy, helpful but never presumptuous, and principled but never rigid. Passionate about music, and fiercely supportive of the arts in the College, Harvard is a colder place without him.

Jeremy R. Knowles, Harvard University Distinguished Service Professor and dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences from 1991 to 2002

Archie was a teacher, but not a lecturer. He loved to talk with students, and he loved to talk about students, and about the myriad enterprises and activities in which they were involved. But every conversation with Archie was an opportunity to put events of the day-to-day world in a larger context, and for our decisions and our actions to be measured against the institutional values we claim to honor. He was infinitely patient with those of us who were new to the issues of student life, and when conversing with Archie I came to talk less and listen more, having learned that at the end of his explanations would often come profound and contrarian insights.

Harry R. Lewis, McKay Professor of Computer Science and dean of Harvard College from 1995 to 2003

Archie Epps was, for me, higher education’s iconic dean of students. I met him for the first time shortly after I myself became a dean of students at Princeton (in 1968), and I remember being struck immediately by his perfectly natural elegance, and his clarity – not always in large supply at the time – about the fundamental purposes of universities. I also remember his ease and approachability, and his inoffensive but completely evident self-confidence – together with all his generous solicitude, and his marvelous cultivation of intellect, taste, and haberdashery.

Archie cared devotedly and continuously about students, and about the fullness and richness of their lives at Harvard College. Through his work, he increased that richness immeasurably. His capacity for rapport, affection, and friendship was rare. No less rare were his firmness, strength of principle, and wisdom. In an era when the world of higher education now has multitudes of deans, Archie remains vividly in my mind as a singular, valiant, and authentically decanal Dean of Deans.

Neil L. Rudenstine, Harvard University president from 1991 to 2001

Archie embodied the best of what Harvard represents. He was almost as much an institution as the College itself. He touched the lives of countless students, faculty, and staff over the years and left all of them better for the experience. His service to Harvard reflected an extraordinary blend of humanity, humility, courage, and concern both for the well-being of others and for the enterprise of learning. He will be greatly missed.

Harvard University President Lawrence H. Summers