Edward Everett entered Harvard at the age of 13 and took his degree 200 years ago at Commencement ceremonies held in those days in August. Even then he was known as a formidable orator. He was valedictorian of the class of 1811 and spoke on “Literary Evils.” That was “an unmeaning phrase,” he later wrote. “It was, I suspect, an inferior performance. Not much can be effected, even by a mature mind, in a set discourse of only 12 minutes in length.…”
He went on to a life as an educator and a politician from Massachusetts and was president of Harvard from 1846 to 1849. He didn’t much care for that job. Harvard lacked resources, and the students nicknamed him “Old Granny.”
When the Civil War came, Everett attained the moment for which he is best remembered. Asked to deliver the principal address at the dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, he spoke for more than two hours. He was followed by President Abraham Lincoln, who delivered perhaps the most famous speech in American history in a little more than two minutes.
Here is a less-known fact about Everett. Primus is grateful to Anne D. Neal ’77, J.D. ’80, for pointing it out. She is president of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni in Washington, D.C., and also a vice regent of the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association of the Union, the oldest preservation group in America. The organization was formed in 1853 to raise money to buy Mount Vernon from the Washington family. In 1858, Everett embarked on a campaign to raise funds for the cause. He traveled the country giving speeches about Washington’s character and his role in the establishment of the Union (Everett was a staunch Unionist). He spoke 129 times to that end and turned over his speaker’s fees of $69,064 to the Ladies’ Association, helping them toward the $200,000 that Washington’s heirs required for Mount Vernon, no piddling sum. When next you visit this historic site, tip your hat to Old Granny.
Best friend: Stressed Yale law students were able to reserve 30-minute sessions with therapy dog Monty (short for General Montgomery) in a space at the Yale Law School Library dedicated to the purpose during a three-day trial program launched March 28. Monty, a border terrier mix, belongs to Julian Aiken, an access services librarian. Numerous students signed up for Monty’s attention. His assessment of the program is not yet known. But pay attention, Harvard. Yale Law School is perennially at the top of U.S. News’s rankings of the nation’s law schools, perhaps just because of such caring individuals as Monty.
Worrier James: The summer 2009 number of the Harvard Library Bulletin—published in January 2011—contains several essays written on the occasion of an exhibition at Houghton Library marking the centennial of the death in 1910 of psychologist, philosopher, and Harvard professor William James, M.D. 1869, LL.D. 1903. One essay, “A Professor’s Salary,” explicates a typed, single-page document among the James papers that chronicles his salary across a 30-year span. The essay is by Drew Faust, president of Harvard and Lincoln professor of history.
Of the document she writes, “We do not know who compiled it, when, or for what purpose. It is typed, and James himself is not known to have typed anything.” Perhaps it is the work of a biographer.
James’s salary rose from an annual rate of $600 in 1873 to a high of $5,000 in 1899. Faust writes that “by the 1890s his salary was close to Harvard’s professorial maximum. How did this compare to average salaries across the state and nation? In 1890, when James was paid $3,500, the average national income was $445; the state average was $460, a ratio of nearly 8:1. The average Harvard University professor today makes about five times the national average.” But, she notes, “Despite the consistent increases in his income, James worried incessantly about his financial security.”
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