No one knows when John Harvard was born, but a record book from Southwark Cathedral in London announces his baptism there on November 29, 1607. This fall, celebrations in Old and New England are marking this four-hundredth anniversary.
photograph by Jon Chase / Harvard News Office
In the land of his birth, the University’s original benefactor will be recognized twice at the cathedral (where a memorial window in his honor, presented in 1905, is installed in the Lady Chapel). On Sunday, November 25, a New World visitor—the Reverend Peter J. Gomes, the Plummer professor of Christian morals and Pusey minister in the Memorial Church—is scheduled to preach to the congregation, and on November 29, the morning prayer service will be dedicated to Harvard.
In the place where he came to serve his congregation, and died, the anniversary is being marked with equal solemnity, and some hoopla as well. A rousing “400th Birthday Party” was organized for October 20, following the Harvard-Princeton football game, with President Drew Faust and the Harvard Band leading guests to a bash—complete with hats, cake, and dancing—at the Murr Center’s indoor tennis courts. On November 1, a special exhibition featuring documents, artwork, and rare Harvard memorabilia opens at the University Archives in Pusey Library; “Heralds of Light”: John Harvard and The Memorial Church, 1607-1932-2007 commemorates both John Harvard the minister and the seventy-fifth anniversary of the dedication, on November 11, 1932, of Memorial Church (see www.memorialchurch.harvard.edu for details). The church itself will host, on Sunday, November 4, the unveiling of a tablet recognizing the anniversary of Harvard’s baptism—a joint gift from the Dean and Chapter of Southwark Cathedral and from the Master and Fellows of Emmanuel College, John Harvard’s own alma mater at Cambridge University. Both the master of Emmanuel and the dean of the cathedral will attend to present the tablet; the dean will also preach at the service.
Coverage of other activities honoring Harvard’s philanthropic and educational legacy, planned for the remainder of the academic year, will appear in a future issue.
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