The Business of Turning 375
After marking 100 years “in business” with its own centennial celebration three years ago, Harvard Business School (HBS) was well prepared to help celebrate Harvard’s 375th birthday on October 14. Members of the HBS community gathered to decorate themselves with Harvard-themed flair. In 2008, there was a neoclassical replica cake of the iconic Baker Library; this year, when HBS affiliates walked across the Weeks Footbridge to take part in the University parade, they wore top hats adorned with images of campus buildings, Baker Library among them. In addition to their Lady Gaga-worthy headwear, the procession (led by a student dressed as a 1920s-era George Baker himself) also carried banners, miniature centennial bells, glow sticks, and briefcases emblazoned with the HBS crest on one side and wrapped to look like birthday presents on the other. Making their way through the rain toward Wadsworth Gate, they joined the other graduate-school processions prior to entering Harvard Yard for the main event.
I walked with my husband, a current student, and Dean Nitin Nohria, who showed the ultimate act of chivalry by going without cover in the pouring rain so that his wife could stay dry under their umbrella. After the warmth and hospitality of the celebratory dinner in the formal dining room of Spangler Center, the rain threatened to put a damper on things. But because Dean Nohria was not showing any signs of complaint, neither did we. Once the group arrived for the parade, it was a struggle to stay together in the rain and the crowd. Luckily the replica centennial bells we carried were functional as well as factually accurate (the miniature casts had been made by the same Russian forge that created the original Centennial Bell for the school’s campus) and could be heard from a distance. Time is money—and true to form, the members of the business school did not want to waste time losing track of each other!
Students enrolled in a graduate program that lasts only two years can easily overlook the magnitude of their school’s history. So when celebrating Harvard’s 375th anniversary, it was especially poignant for the members of the professional-school community to reflect on the legacy they have now become part of, after their relatively short time at the American school that has been around the longest of them all.