Campus & Community

This month in Harvard history

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Oct. 6, 1862 – The Overseers confirm the Rev. Thomas Hill, Class of 1843, as Harvard’s 20th President. His brief tenure brings higher admissions standards, a series of public “University Lectures” (est. 1863) by distinguished Harvard and non-Harvard scholars that paves the way for the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences and University Extension, and progress toward a system of elective courses. Hill also conducts nationwide searches for new faculty appointees.

Oct. 19, 1869 – At the meetinghouse of First Church, Unitarian, Charles William Eliot is formally installed as Harvard’s 21st President. From the outset, Eliot’s 105-minute address delineates his broad educational purposes: “The endless controversies whether language, philosophy, mathematics, or science supplies the best mental training, whether general education should be chiefly literary or chiefly scientific, have no practical lesson for us to-day. This University recognizes no real antagonism between literature and science, and consents to no such narrow alternatives as mathematics or classics, science or metaphysics. We would have them all, and at their best.”

Oct. 18, 1923 –  The editors of the “Harvard Alumni Bulletin” lament the dea(r)th of festive spirit in recent Commencements:

“There used to be a committee of the Harvard Alumni Association on ‘the Happy Observance of Commencement Day.’ Presumably it still exists; but if Commencement Days are to be no more happily observed at Cambridge in the years immediately to come than they have been of late, it is time for the committee to ask for a new designation of its functions. [. . .] Last June it was worse than ever. [. . .] We should be disposed to recall it as one of the most dreadful occasions within the memory of man but for a lively recollection of the year before, when the ‘remarks’ of a distinguished statesman stretched from the supposedly allotted ten minutes to forty and were brought to an end only by the heavens’ release of thunder, lightning, and hail, except for which – but no, we must not be disrespectful.”

– From the Harvard Historical Calendar, a database compiled by Marvin Hightower