Harvard College Dean Evelynn M. Hammonds (from left), President Drew Faust, and cellist Yo-Yo Ma gathered onstage to help Harvard celebrate its 375th anniversary.

Rose Lincoln/Harvard Staff Photographer

Campus & Community

375th party under the umbrellas

long read

Festive crowd wouldn’t let weather dampen their spirits

Harvard writers and photographers ventured to all corners of the campus and captured the University’s 375th anniversary celebration.

A short-term Woodstock in the Yard

As the rain fell Friday night, many anniversary celebrants remained in Tercentenary Theatre, clustered in humid knots huddled under their umbrellas. The water fell in gray sheets, as from a waterfall. The lawn turned into a sliding sea of mud. Along sidewalks, the puddles flowed into brown streams.

Harvard in 1636 fronted a cow yard. Harvard on Oct. 14, 2011, fronted a new cow yard — trampled and muddy. But the crowd celebrating the University’s 375th birthday made the best of the wet evening, creating a short-lived, muddy Woodstock for people who had always done their homework.

The final moments of the official ceremony, around 9:15 p.m., brought a birthday surprise, in the form of the Jimmy Vali band, live and kicking. So began the end-of-night boogieing, in a kind of outdoor, raincoat-wearing disco.

The crowd made the best of the wet evening, creating a short-lived, muddy Woodstock for people who had always done their homework. Jon Chase/Harvard Staff Photographer

The musical program started before that on a more classical note, with the Harvard-Radcliffe Orchestra, and with heavenly counterpoint voices from the Holden Choirs. Then came Yo-Yo Ma ’76, swaying and ecstatic, playing sonorous Bach on his cello. Afterward, President Drew Faust joined him on the tented stage in front of the Memorial Church. “Where’s the cake?” he asked. She had an answer ready: “I think the deans ate it all.”

The deans — or some of them — cut the birthday cake at 8:21 p.m. Taking the first cut was Provost Alan M. Garber. Outside the lighted tent protecting the dessert, a scrum of onlookers popped umbrellas and cracked wise. “I’m stepping on something,” one said. “I hope it isn’t a classmate.” Another offered, “It’s a giant cake. I want to roll in it, but they won’t let me.” A shout from the crowd asked as the giant knife went in: “Can I have a corner piece?

With a giant knife in hand, Radcliffe’s interim dean, Lizabeth Cohen, cuts the cake during Harvard’s 375th celebration. Jon Chase/Harvard Staff Photographer

In her remarks, Faust delivered the birthday wishes. She had three: that Harvard create a future that graduates of the past would be proud of; that people at Harvard work together to serve the University’s greatest goals, “to teach, to learn, to expand the realms of knowledge”; and that Harvard continue to be committed “to open access and inquiry.”

Harvard College Dean Evelynn M. Hammonds had similar thoughts. “Birthdays are a time to look back,” she said, “but also to look forward.”

Faust, in the spirit of the moment, said, “By the authority vested in me, let’s cut and serve the cake.” The crowd — still under a steady drizzle — roared.

— Corydon Ireland

Pomp and circumstance

The main event in Tercentenary Theatre began with a parade of the University’s 12 undergraduate Houses and 13 graduate and professional Schools. As the marchers proceeded past the steps of Widener Library, where President Drew Faust was perched, each group took the opportunity to show off what made its School or House unique.

For Abby Koff, a senior Kirkland House committee member, that had meant building an impressive float, crafting papier-mâché letters spelling out “Kirkland,” decorating noisemakers, and promising a big turnout for the small House’s parade contingent.

“We have such a sense of community here, probably because it’s small,” Koff said. It also meant representing John Thornton Kirkland, Harvard’s 15th president, and affectionately known around the House as JTK.

“JTK is a big deal around here,” Koff said. “We had ‘What would JTK do?’ wristbands, at one point.”

While the Houses boasted impressive props, many graduate Schools opted for performances. Students from Harvard Business School rang bells to represent the campus’ Centennial Bell. Those from Harvard Kennedy School dressed up to represent their home countries, and students from Harvard Divinity School sang “This Little Light of Mine.”

Rain didn’t stop the crowd from gathering in Tercentenary Theatre as the festivities continued … following a short delay. Meghan Dhaliwal/Harvard Staff Photographer

Raining on my parade

At 7:45, nature took a turn for the worse. Just as students from Adams House — the only undergraduate House that had chosen a formal dress code for the occasion — prepared to march before the president, a downpour began. The torrent elicited a collective shriek and a sudden bloom of umbrellas.

The downpour left participants either running for shelter or standing stock-still and accepting their fate. Two alumni debated how best to eat ice cream in a downpour.

The rain relented 20 minutes later, but lingering lightning led the University to postpone the main event for 30 minutes. At 8:10, University Marshal Jackie O’Neill asked guests to move indoors to wait out dangerous conditions. A rallying cry of “To the Queen’s Head” Pub was overheard more than once, before festivities resumed.

— Katie Koch

“The show must go on” was the  mantra of the evening as dancers from the Harvard Ballet Company performed for the audience. Meghan Dhaliwal/Harvard Staff Photographer

A cappella à la carte

Student performers were sprinkled throughout Tercentenary Theatre in the lead-up to the main event, from dramatic groups to the fine ladies of the Hasty Pudding Theatricals (whose dainty kitten heels seemed to be giving them problems in the ankle-deep mud). The random nature of the performances, which popped up at various points around the celebration, made it seem as if Harvard boasts nearly as many a cappella groups as it does birthday candles.

“In reality I think there are only 11 or 12, which isn’t that many,” said Andrew Leiman, a Cabot House senior and music director of the Harvard Krokodiloes, Harvard’s longest-running group.

As the all-male chorus formed a semicircle and broke into such standards as “Runaround Sue” and “Runaway,” a crowd of alumni instantly materialized.

“We focus on oldies, so I think that attracts a different crowd,” Leiman said after the performance.

After singing at an event honoring 375 years of University tradition, do the Krokodiloes think a cappella epitomizes Harvard? The singers acknowledged impromptu harmonizing isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but said they were still impressed by the enthusiasm of their audience, even in the pouring rain.

“That’s the beauty of Harvard,” said Dan Bruder, general manager of the group and a Cabot House senior. “There’s something different for everyone.”

— Katie Koch

The lettered T-shirts of nine of the participants spelled out Extension with punctuation provided by Dean Michael Shinagel and his wife (far right). Photo by Rachelle Harding

Pizza and a video

Harvard Extension School hosted a pre-party with pizza from Otto Pizza, a business co-owned by Extension School graduate Anthony Allen, A.L.B. ’94. The rain outside may have moved the party indoors but appetites were hearty with attendees consuming more than 90 of the tasty pies.

Harvard Extension Student Association (HESA) President Philip Harding (who created the official Harvard 375th promotional video) led an enthusiastic Extension School parade contingent through Harvard Square. Their parade contribution culminated in a video “interruption” played on the Jumbotrons around Tercentenary Theatre. The lettered T-shirts of nine of the participants spelled out Extension with punctuation provided by Dean Michael Shinagel and his wife, Marjorie North, in the form of two exclamation-marked T-shirts.

— Linda Cross/Harvard Extension School

A center of attention

Dressed in a long-sleeved, white T-shirt stamped with Harvard’s red and black 375th anniversary logo, David Moniz, Harvard’s manager of benefits accounting and reporting, made sure that the party in the Holyoke Center was running smoothly. At Harvard for just a year, Moniz found himself at his first big University event.  He jumped right in, volunteering for the Human Resources event team that helped to run the festivities for the central administrative staff in the building’s arcade.

“It’s been a lot of fun,” said Moniz, who guessed that between 400 and 500 people had visited the festive space. “It’s been running like clockwork.”

Famed architect Josep Lluis Sert, the former dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Design, would have been proud to see that the first floor of his building was being put to its original use. The architect designed the long passageway on the ground floor of the 10-story structure to act as an extension of a vibrant city street. During the event, revelers strolled the brick corridor, which was dotted with decorative lamps, stopping to chat at temporary café tables, and enjoying tasty treats.

White wigs and red boas

The Dean of Students Office at Harvard Law School (HLS) made sure that history was a cheeky part of the 375th celebration for its future lawyers. A controlled mayhem reigned on the second floor of the School’s Caspersen Student Center, as the expansive space turned into a mock British House of Lords.

Students donned black robes, white wigs, red feather boas, and glow-in-the-dark necklaces, and carried star-shaped wands or small plastic gavels for their parade into Harvard Yard.

“What is this?” yelled one stunned student as she entered the hall filled with her costumed friends. “My head is exploding.”

But HLS student Julia Schlozman ’09 had her priorities in order, saying, “I’m really looking forward to the giant cake.

Harvard Law School students don powdered wigs before processing to Harvard Yard. Kris Snibbe/Harvard Staff Photographer

A night simply divine

Students, faculty, and staff at Harvard Divinity School (HDS) took part in a progressive dinner, which began with hors d’oeuvres at Divinity Hall.

HDS Dean William Graham stopped HDS student Gene Anthony and his wife Frances to compliment them on their festive dress. “I like the Hogwarts outfits,” said Graham to the couple, who wore black and maroon robes with the Gryffindor insignia.

The Anthonys were getting into the spirit, encouraged by School administrators to dress in a style that expressed a pilgrimage they had encountered while at HDS. “This is a magical place,” said Anthony. “Plus,” he said, “I wanted the robe.

At Andover Hall, Dudley Rose, associate dean for ministry studies, addressed the crowd while garbed as a pilgrim. Rose wore the costume in part to honor his own lineage — as a direct descendant of John Alden, one of Plymouth Colony’s original settlers — and to honor Harvard’s founding to educate Puritan ministers.

“I felt it called back to the whole beginning of the University,” said Rose.

Emily Click, assistant dean for ministry studies and field education, donned a blue and white Los Angeles Dodgers baseball cap and jacket. The uniform, she said, paid homage to her hometown baseball team and her pilgrimage from Dodgers to Red Sox territory.

Graham, who attended Harvard’s 350th celebration in Harvard Stadium, praised the 375th for allowing the University’s Schools to enjoy their own celebrations before coming together in the Yard to continue the party.

“That’s really nice to have that dimension to the 375th.”

— Colleen Walsh

Embracing the night

The skies opened as Lowell House residents lined up, preparing to parade into the Yard for the night’s festivities. Several residents, dressed in Roman garb, embraced the fun of the evening, rain or not. One borrowed from J.K. Rowling in describing the evening as Harvard’s equivalent to a contest in one of the Harry Potter novels, the Triwizard Tournament.

Great timing

Dante Brown, mother of Lowell House resident Siena Leslie, wasn’t expecting a party when she flew out from Los Angeles to visit her daughter. As one of the Irish dancers, though, Leslie was a participant in the 375th celebration and couldn’t watch the Lowell House parade.

That’s where her mom came in.

Juggling an umbrella and a video camera, Brown braved the rain to record the procession so Leslie could watch later.

Onward through the rain

HBS student Adrian Ow and 2008 alum Elizabeth Lim took shelter in a Mt. Auburn Street doorway on their soggy trek from HBS to the Yard Friday evening. Before the pair dashed into the Yard, Lim, wrapped in a poncho handed out at HBS, looked out at the rain and made an observation that could apply to every stalwart who joined the celebration.

“We’re obviously very dedicated,” Lim said.

— Alvin Powell

Alex Kunha (right) comes trunk to nose with the Eliot House mascot. Rose Lincoln /Harvard Staff Photographer

An elephant leads Eliot

Eliot House marchers were led into Harvard Yard Friday evening by their House mascot, Domus the elephant. The wood, cloth, and chicken-wire creation was strung with lights.

Morgan Lehmann, a senior history concentrator who spearheaded the effort to build Domus, said Eliot is Harvard’s grand old house, and students there wanted it to be appropriately represented.

Though Lehmann was keeping an eye on the rainy skies, that wasn’t her only concern. Given the history of pranks between Eliot and Adams Houses, Lehmann wanted to make sure Domus made it safely home.

“People in the other houses expressed what they might do,” Lehmann said. “We don’t want them to steal our elephant.” Routine concerns for any birthday, right?

The apples of his eye

In the search for culinary authenticity on the apple front, Harvard turned to one of its own, Eric Chivian, director of Harvard Medical School’s Center for Health and the Global Environment and an assistant clinical professor of psychiatry.

On the side, Chivian runs an orchard that grows heirloom varieties. Among those is the Roxbury Russet, dating to the 1630s and long prized for its cider-making qualities. The rare russet was available in the Yard at the cider tent.

The apple is an underappreciated aspect of the Colonial diet, Chivian said. In the years before cane sugar made it north from the Caribbean, and even before honeybees were imported to America, apples were a major sweetener. Not only were the apples eaten whole, as well as in pies, early Americans suspicious of water quality often drank fermented cider.

“They didn’t trust water. You could always trust cider, because you grew it yourself,” Chivian said.

— Alvin Powell

Harold Morgan ’60 (left), talks with good friend Bill Markus ’60, at the Charles Hotel. Jon Chase/Harvard Staff Photographer

The last professor on horseback

Homer Hagedorn, A.M. ’51, Ph.D. ’55, was in grade school when Harvard celebrated its 300th anniversary in 1936. But he remembers studying with Samuel Eliot Morison, the longtime, iconic history professor who wrote a three-volume history of the University in time for the Depression-era celebration.

Hagedorn, visiting from Lexington, Mass., for the 375th celebration, reflected that Morison was an echo of history himself, bringing a whiff of the 19th century to a swiftly modernizing Harvard. Morison, who lived in Boston, was the last faculty member to commute to work on horseback. Hagedorn said Morison made a speech every year in front of his undergraduate survey course, saying students should wear collared shirts, ties, and jackets.

Hagedorn and his wife, Patricia, who directed admissions at the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences from 1953 to 1960, joined hundreds of alumni and alumnae at the Charles Hotel, mingling in a warren of music-filled rooms festooned with class banners (1939 to 2011). Along with suits, stylish dresses, and suntans, the uniform of the day included 375th anniversary baseball caps, pins, and even T-shirts.

— Corydon Ireland

A float on a night for boats

While most students in Pforzheimer House stayed dry in the dining hall, enjoying a historically appropriate meal of Welsh rarebit and chicken pot pie, four students scampered outside in the rain, doing their best to protect the parade float they had slaved over.

Atop the 15-foot structure, a polar bear, lit with white lights and wearing a bright red scarf, peered up at the gloomy sky. As the northernmost house at Harvard, Pforzheimer has the polar bear as its mascot.

Graham Frankel ’12 said that building the 500-pound float had kept the team up until 7 a.m. “It’s taken about 120 man-hours to construct,” Frankel said. Matthew Chuchul ’13 eagerly pointed out the lights that the team had run across the structure, including black lights beneath the snowy white fabric.

Shannon Morrow ’12 said the float was eco-friendly. “It’s built of separate pieces,” Morrow said. “That way we can detach them to be stored and used again for other events.”

Once the float was protected by a tarp, the students scattered to dine and change out of their wet clothes. But before running for cover, Ayse Baybars ’12 stopped to lift the tarp and proudly display the House motto, “Fortes fortuna adiuvat,” or “Fortune favors the brave.”

Harvard’s 375th anniversary coincides with two other celebrations: the 50th anniversary of North House, established in 1961 and consisting of Comstock, Moors, and Holmes; and the 15th anniversary of Pforzheimer House, renamed from North in 1995 to acknowledge the philanthropy of the late Carl Jr. and Carol Pforzheimer.

— Jennifer Doody

Food, science, and celebration

Before the 375th anniversary ceremony in Harvard Yard, the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) held a festive reception for alumni and friends in the Gordon McKay Library, featuring a culinary demonstration.

David Weitz, Mallinckrodt Professor of Physics and Applied Physics, who teaches the popular General Education course “Science & Cooking: From Haute Cuisine to the Science of Soft Matter,” explained the course, including its history, pedagogical approach, and outcomes. The course staff created a clear “root beer float” cocktail, a gin-and-tonic foam, and a spoonful of vermouth with grapefruit jelly, with samples for all.

Over in the Maxwell Dworkin building, members of the SEAS community enjoyed a jazz band, along with food and drink. Students, faculty, staff, and administrators lined up for the parade to the celebration at Harvard Yard, wearing flashing T-shirts and glow-in-the-dark hair gel in hot pink, blue, and green. (SEAS Dean Cherry Murray was among them, but opted out of the hair gel.) Donning plastic ponchos, the celebrants ventured into the rain to join the party.

— Caroline M. Perry/SEAS

Plenty to celebrate at HKS

When John F. Kennedy arrived at Harvard, in 1936, the University was celebrating its 300th birthday. President Franklin D. Roosevelt spoke on campus for the anniversary, a solemn affair underscoring the seriousness of the times.

The idea that, 75 years later, Harvard would be letting loose in the Yard is both “astonishing and reassuring,” said David T. Ellwood, dean of the Harvard Kennedy School (HKS).

Harvard Kennedy School graduate Jimmy Tingle returned to help Harvard celebrate. “People wondered, ‘What will the Kennedy School teach?’” Tingle said. “Kennedys?” Rose Lincoln /Harvard Staff Photographer

HKS got the party started a few hours early, with an audience quiz show featuring all-star faculty presenters, a monologue by comedian Jimmy Tingle, M.C./M.P.A. ’10, and “commercial breaks” in the proceedings by HKS students Chris Gustafson and Nick Gerry-Bullard. The event celebrated not just the University’s 375th  birthday, but also the Kennedy School’s 75th.

Tingle, the evening’s host, acknowledged that HKS’s journey to its current role — as an incubator of smart policy and emerging leaders in the public sector — began in fits and starts.

“People wondered, ‘What will the Kennedy School teach?’” Tingle said. “Kennedys?”

But HKS has carved out a niche for itself, he said, by impressing upon students the value of “public service — and statistics.”

The quiz show highlighted little-known tidbits of School history, with Tingle providing plenty of commentary.

“Look at the forum,” he said, gesturing to the John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum, the multipurpose space where he and hundreds of guests were gathered. “This thing has more functions than the new iPhone.”

Indeed, the room was packed with students, faculty, alumni, and staff — a sign that, as Tingle phrased it, “humor knows no political affiliation.”

— Katie Koch

The puller of levers

The man behind the green curtain in “The Wizard of Oz” worked the levers, pulled the wires, kept the show going. For Harvard’s 375th birthday party, that man was Jason Luke ’94, associate director of custodial and support services at Harvard’s Facilities Maintenance Operations. He is, in effect, the ceremony czar. Or maybe Pooh-Bah.

Every spring he gets Harvard ready for Commencement week. But this fall, Luke and “many other people,” he said, have been working on the birthday bash: the lights, sound systems, stages, tents, chairs, first aid stations, signage, and other accoutrements of fun. “This is different. It’s all new,” Luke said of the 375th, as compared with Commencement. “There’s no routine.”

For a few moments Friday afternoon, he stood at ease in Tercentenary Theatre, with his gray suit, red tie, floppy brown bush hat, and raincoat over one arm. His walkie-talkie crackled.

Commencement is still the biggest challenge, said Luke, with its five days, six main events, thousands more people, and many more venues. But the 375th meant overcoming a special challenge: making it work in the midst of the academic year. “We don’t have the run of the place like we’re used to,” he said. Suddenly, a man with a clipboard ran up, holding a plan for trash containers. Luke said, “I’ll be right with you.”

— Corydon Ireland

The three-layer, red velvet cake, topped with butter cream frosting, was the result of months of labor for Joanne Chang ’91, owner of Flour Bakery + Café. Rose Lincoln/Harvard Staff Photographer

One cake out of many

By noon today, a panel truck from Harvard University Hospitality and Dining Services (HUHDS) was backed up to a white tent in the middle of Tercentenary Theatre, that leafy space between Widener Library and the Memorial Church where the University community gathers for Commencements and other special occasions.

This special occasion was Harvard’s birthday — 375 years young this year. And the panel truck held the cake for the party. It doesn’t usually take a large truck to carry a cake, but this wasn’t just any dessert. The giant, H-shaped confection was to feed several thousand attendees and was made up of 62 smaller cakes, taking up most of an 18-by-15-foot platform. In addition, the truck held the gallons of frosting to bind the pieces together.

The three-layer, red velvet cake, topped with butter cream frosting, was the result of months of labor for Joanne Chang ’91, owner of Flour Bakery + Café. Chang and her staff put together the cake, moving the pieces bucket-brigade style while Richard Spingel, production manager for HUHDS, handed them out of the back of the truck.

Since August, Spingel has been driving to Flour Bakery each week to pick up six cakes and store them in one of the Dining Services’ big freezers, watching them accumulate until Friday morning, when he delivered them to the Yard. Spingel — who has been at Harvard for 40 years — and Chang said the cake is the largest they’ve worked on.

— Alvin Powell

The food comes with lessons

It’s 3 p.m. at Tercentenary Theatre. The skies are gray, a sheet of lead above fall-dappled trees. The rain is insistent, but light and misty. In four hours, Harvard will officially celebrate its 375th birthday with food, music, drink, and dance. But wait. Nothing is ready.

It will be, said Martin Breslin, director of culinary operations for Harvard University Hospitality and Dining Services. Around him, squads of food workers in white uniforms scurry about food tables, tents, and reception sites. The New Yard buzzes with the energy of a movie set. In one bright white tent, Breslin oversees assembly of an apple cider press, its heavy iron legs painted red. Stacked nearby are crates of organic heritage apples from an orchard in western Massachusetts: Baldwins, Pound Sweets, Roxbury Russets — the last a 17th-century variety that the first Harvard undergraduates enjoyed with their butter, beer, chicken pies, and beef.

Breslin makes a quick tour of three other main food tents. They represent the main birthday food groups: chocolate, ice cream, and cake. Under the chocolate tent, four fountains for chocolate fondue wait to be assembled. Silver bowls and urns wait to be unpacked. The brownies aren’t there yet. Ditto the truffles. And the chocolate lessons are still to come — involving cocoa pods and nib grinding.

Every tent comes with a lesson. In the ice cream tent, students in heavy black aprons and welders’ masks will demonstrate how to make ice cream with liquid nitrogen. Cream, sugar, and vanilla — nothing more — will be turned into ice cream in three minutes instead of the conventional 24 hours. “The best ice cream you will ever have,” Breslin proclaimed, adding as an assurance, “Liquid nitrogen is not an ingredient — it’s a process.”

— Corydon Ireland

Stephanie Wang (from left) ’12, Kefhira Pintoi ’12, Raafi Alidina ’12, and Alan Montelongo ’12 blow up balloons inside Eliot House in preparation for the parade to Harvard Yard. Justin Ide/Harvard Staff Photographer

To learn more about Harvard’s 375th anniversary, visit its website. Additional photos can be viewed in the Harvard Gazette Photo Journal.