Arts Transition

At a special dinner in May, dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Jeremy Knowles ended his lighthearted remarks by presenting a pair of gifts...

At a special dinner in May, dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Jeremy Knowles ended his lighthearted remarks by presenting a pair of gifts to Myra Mayman, who retires this July after 28 years as director of the Office for the Arts at Harvard (OfA). First, he announced that the studio in the OfA headquarters, at 74 Mount Auburn Street, would be named the "Director's Studio," and that a portrait of founding director Mayman would be the first one to grace its walls. Second, he gave her a Steuben replica of a Minoan vase engraved "Myra Mayman, exuberant patron of the arts at Harvard and Radcliffe, 1973-2001." Earlier in the month another honor, perhaps better reflecting Mayman's expansive personality, was announced: the Wrap, a sandwich shop opposite the OfA offices, named a vermicelli-based spring roll the "Myra Mayman."

Since 1973, Mayman (see "Harvard Portrait," May-June 1999, page 69) has built OfA from a small room with a table and chair into a major force on campus, a clearinghouse for creative activity that embraces 24 offices, three studios, and a few theaters. ArtsFirst, the arts festival launched in 1993 with impetus from former Overseer John Lithgow '67, has burgeoned as an annual rite of spring. Describing Mayman, who typically gives credit to others, Knowles used a metaphor from ceramics: "Myra shapes us like clay, then she fires us, with her energy, her enthusiasm, and her impeccable good taste."

Her successor will be Jack Megan, a composer, pianist, playwright, and music director who spent 12 years as an administrator with the Longy School of Music in Cambridge, where he rose to the rank of executive director. A 1980 graduate of Holy Cross, Megan also holds an M.F.A. in arts administration from Columbia.

He inherits a robustly healthy program from Mayman, who also leaves behind an abundance of happy memories, many of which surfaced at the May dinner. (That gala's venue was Agassiz House, OfA's home base until 1995.) The occasion featured several musical performances, including the song "Myra," written for Mayman by jazz saxophonist Benny Carter, D.Mus. '94, a participant in the Learning from Performers series that she began in 1975. "Myra" became a kind of theme song for its namesake's retirement events: the Harvard Jazz Band played it in April, the Veritones sang it at a Sanders Theatre open house in May, and at the Agassiz dinner, Jessica Tardy '99 sang it accompanied by the University Saxophone Quartet. The springtime panoply of fetes and parties will be a hard act to top, until you consider Mayman's post-retirement plans. "My husband has offered me a life of romance and international travel," she says. "I couldn't say no!"


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