Shirley Brice Heath

Harvard - The Oldest Of The Ivy League Colleges


Harvard College - And The Presidents

Seven of America's presidents attended Harvard College starting with John Adams and ending with George W. Bush, with the others being John Quincy Adams, Theodore and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Rutherford B. Hayes and John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

On top of this it has produced more than forty Nobel laureates.

Harvard is one of eight colleges which make up the so called 'Ivy League' with the others being Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Pennsylvania, Princeton and last but not least Yale.

The 'Ivy League' is an athletic conference that has strong connotations with academic excellence, selectivity in admissions and a reputation for social elitism.

Harvard's Mission

Harvard College states that it adheres to the purposes for which the Charter of 1650 was granted, "The advancement of all good literature, arts, and sciences; the advancement and education of youth in all manner of good literature, arts, and sciences; and all other necessary provisions that may conduce to the education of the youth of this country".

To these ends, the aims of the College can therefore be said to be to encourage its students to respect the ideas of others and also their right to free expression. To encourage them to rejoice in discovery and in critical thought. To pursue excellence in a spirit of productive cooperation and to assume responsibility for the consequences of their personal actions.

The further stated goals of Harvard are to endeavor to identify and to remove restraints on its students' full participation so that individuals may explore their capabilities and interests and also develop their full intellectual and human potential.

"Once liberated they should explore, create, challenge and lead".

The Early History of Harvard University

Harvard was founded sixteen years after the arrival of the Pilgrims at Plymouth and it is the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States having celebrated its 350th anniversary in 1986.

At the time of its creation it had nine students with a single master and in 2008 in enrolled more than 18,000 degree candidates, including undergraduates and students in ten principal academic units.

Added to this perhaps astonishing figure a further 13,000 students are enrolled in one or more courses at the 'Harvard Extension School'.

Harvard has an astounding 2,000 faculty members and employs a total of over 14,000 people and there are in addition to this, also 7,000 additional faculty appointments in its affiliated teaching hospitals.

A Point Of Historical Interest

Does the following sound familiar?

"A lady in a faded gingham dress and her husband, dressed in a homespun threadbare suit, stepped off the train in Boston, and walked timidly without an appointment into the Harvard University president's outer office...".

The story has been on the Internet for several months now and suggests that in the 1880's, Harvard's President Charles Eliot refused to talk to the fabulously wealthy but poorly dressed Leland Stanford and his wife without realizing that they were offering a large endowment to the University as a memorial to their deceased son. The story then states, that following the rejection that the couple went on to found 'Stanford University'.

Whilst perhaps interesting, the story is fabricated. Leland Stanford and his wife did in fact visit Harvard but they were not only well received by Charles Eliot but he willingly provided them with much helpful information that would later aid them in the setting up of a college on the West Coast, namely 'Stanford University'.

During its early years, Harvard offered what was then a somewhat classic academic course that was based on the English university model that was in keeping with the prevailing Puritan philosophy of the first colonists which in turn led to many of its early graduates becoming ministers in Puritan congregations throughout New England.

In 1708, John Leverett was elected as president and he was the first President that was not a clergyman and it marked a turning of the College towards an intellectual independence from Puritanism.

Charles W. Eliot who served as president from 1869 to 1909 then transformed the relatively small provincial institution into a modern university.

The curriculum was further broadened in the 18th and 19th centuries particularly in the sciences which enabled the College to attract a long list of scholars that would later become famous including Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, James Russell Lowell, William James, the elder Oliver Wendell Holmes, Louis Agassiz, and Gertrude Stein

Color And Mascot

Harvard's chosen color is crimson and its mascot is John Harvard who is depicted as a pilgrim-like figure in 17th-century dress.