Yesterday’s News

From the pages of the Harvard Alumni Bulletin and Harvard Magazine

Illustration by Mark Steele


1916The Faculty Committee on the Use of English by Students reports that undergraduates “write bad English because of sheer ignorance. Errors in spelling, punctuation, grammar, and sentence structure abound…the influence of bad school training and years of indifference.”

1921 The Bulletin’s editors criticize the University for merely “welcoming” Marie Curie to Cambridge three days before Commencement, rather than awarding her an honorary degree as Yale and other institutions have done. “To pay this honor to any woman,” they note, “would of course have been an innovation at Harvard, but it is an innovation which sooner or later is bound to come, and to associate it with such an event as the discovery of radium might have gone far to justify it.”

1941 In the face of impending war, 70 Harvard students and 40 Yalies spend six summer weeks in joint training at the Field Artillery ROTC Camp in Underhill, Vermont.

1956 John F. Kennedy ’40, the main Commencement speaker, notes a gap growing between intellectuals and politicians. He recalls that the nation’s first great politicians were also writers and scholars, citing Thomas Jefferson, described by a contemporary as “a gentleman of 32, who could calculate an eclipse, survey an estate, tie an artery, plan an edifice, try a cause, break a horse, dance a minuet, and play the violin.”

1961 Harvard hosts preliminary training for 38 Peace Corps candidates bound for two years in Nigeria.

1966 Adrienne Rich ’51 becomes the first woman to deliver a Phi Beta Kappa poem at Harvard. Her defense of artists’ right to speak out on political matters, notably Vietnam, draws some boos.

1971 Harvard’s air force and navy ROTC units commission their last officers the day before Commencement. (The army unit left in 1970.)…Derek C. Bok becomes the twenty-fifth president of Harvard, the first since 1672 who is not a graduate of the College.

1976 A special loan plan is established to help parents otherwise ineligible for major financial aid pay for their children’s education at Harvard-Radcliffe as the College year’s price tag rises to $7,360.

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