Harvard University, the nation’s oldest institution of higher learning, will mark its 375th anniversary with a yearlong celebration highlighting its rich history and its dedication to teaching, learning, innovation, and research.

Campus & Community

Harvard announces plans to mark 375th anniversary

6 min read

Harvard University, the nation’s oldest institution of higher learning, will mark its 375th anniversary with a yearlong celebration highlighting its rich history and its dedication to teaching, learning, innovation, and research.

Founded in 1636 as a small school at the edge of a New England wilderness to educate Puritan ministers, today Harvard College and the University’s graduate and professional Schools are filled with students and faculty from every corner of the planet addressing the world’s most pressing problems. Harvard continues to lead a path to the future with an enduring commitment to excellence in education and scholarship.

Harvard University President Drew Faust will announce plans for the 375th anniversary celebration at the afternoon Commencement exercises on May 26. The announcement will coincide with the launch of a 375th anniversary website that will contain information about special events and initiatives connected to the yearlong celebration.

“With this anniversary celebration we hope to both glance back and leap forward,” Faust said. “We plan to honor Harvard’s rich history and cherished traditions, the great minds that have taught here, and the great minds those teachers have inspired, and we will also focus our energy and attention on the questions that will define our present and our future. The breadth of events and special projects connected to this important milestone will unite alumni, students, faculty, and staff from across the campus and around the world and remind us that Harvard is truly one University with a shared commitment to shaping the future of knowledge.”

The anniversary will officially begin with a Harvard-wide celebration in Tercentenary Theatre on the evening of Oct. 14, and will extend through the end of May 2012. The kick-off event will feature special House dinners followed by processions to Tercentenary Theatre, where an entertainment program will be supplemented with music and dancing. The event’s planning committee is coordinating additional activities. The celebration coincides with a major annual convening of volunteers for the Harvard Alumni Association, the Harvard College Fund, and admissions interviewers from around the world. As many as 700 volunteers are expected to be on campus to join the festivities.

“We hope that our kick-off celebration in October will inspire the entire Harvard community to commemorate the vitality and richness of Harvard’s past and celebrate its vision for the future. We’re excited that this University-wide event will begin a series of events and activities designed to highlight the ideas and achievements that define us as one University,” said University Marshal Jackie O’Neill.

Harvard’s Schools and institutes will also link major happenings during the year to the anniversary, highlighting their own momentum and marking this important University-wide milestone. Harvard Law School, for example, will officially open its new WCC building during the anniversary year.

“The new building embodies the commitments to innovative teaching, enhancing students’ experiences, and promoting cross-fertilization among people with diverse backgrounds and approaches that inform our School and also anchor the University’s anniversary,” said Martha Minow, dean of Harvard Law School. “We are delighted to join our community in the celebration of Harvard’s history and in President Faust’s vision of ‘one University.’”

In addition to a diverse array of programs beginning in the fall, including artistic and cultural events as well as lectures and discussions with Harvard scholars, the University will launch a series of special anniversary initiatives to commemorate the 375th celebration, including Harvard Stories, “Explore Harvard: The Yard and Beyond,” and a mobile tour of Harvard Yard.

“Future of Knowledge” faculty panels

Throughout the academic year Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) will host a series of panel discussions with young Harvard faculty, those important voices of the next 25 years who will influence the future of knowledge at Harvard.

“A commitment to intellectual discovery and great teaching and learning has been the cornerstone of Harvard’s success for 375 years,” said Michael D. Smith, dean of Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences. “With these panels we hope to explore the advancement of knowledge for solutions and scholarship and examine how we continue to define a 21st century liberal arts education.”

“For 375 years, Harvard College has been at the heart of the University,” said Evelynn Hammonds, dean of Harvard College. “This anniversary allows us both to celebrate the national and international contributions of Harvard graduates, and, looking ahead, to articulate again the important role that higher education plays in educating the next generation.”

Alumni events across the country

In addition to engaging in the festivities in Cambridge, alumni will have other opportunities to join the celebration. On the West Coast, “Harvard College ReConnect” — a program sponsored by the Harvard Alumni Association and the Harvard College Fund that features exciting faculty speakers and draws nearly 500 alumni — will recognize the 375th anniversary. The flagship “Saturday of Symposia” at the Harvard Club of Boston will do the same. And the Harvard Alumni Association will be reaching out to its network of 190 clubs worldwide and encouraging them to commemorate this historic occasion at their annual meetings, lectures, and other events in the course of the year.

Harvard Stories

Through Harvard Stories, members of the Harvard family will share their Harvard experiences with a worldwide audience. The brief video and audio vignettes will be collected from Harvard alumni, students, faculty, and staff who will discuss how their time at Harvard shaped their lives both at the University and beyond its gates.

“Explore Harvard: The Yard and Beyond”

“Explore Harvard: The Yard and Beyond” uses campus images from the Harvard Archives and photos taken by Harvard staff as well as accompanying text to document Harvard’s robust 375-year history. The book captures the spirit of Harvard past and present, documenting Harvard’s beginnings, rituals, architecture and landscape, educational environment, and community.

Mobile tour of Harvard Yard

Using their personal smartphone of choice, virtual and actual visitors to Harvard Yard will be able to explore the famed grassy enclosure with a mobile tour of Harvard Yard. Available as both a native iPhone and a mobile web application, the tour will highlight important landmarks in the Yard with a selection of photos and text, audio, and video.

From a robust series of faculty panels to sharing Harvard’s stories to a capturing the images and spirit of the University on the printed page, the 375th anniversary is a time for the Harvard community to come together to honor its past and imagine its future,” said Faust.