The Master Leads

One of the earliest American football posters, done for <i>Harper’s</i> in 1894 by Edward Penfield. This example, in B+ condition, sold at a Swann Galleries auction August 3 in New York City for $1,320, including buyer’s premium. In 1894 Yale beat Harvard 12-4.

In the fall of 1973, Robert J. Kiely ’60, his wife, Jana, and their three young children moved into Adams House, and he began a 26-year tenure as master. Now Loker professor of English emeritus, Kiely was asked by the Adams House alumni magazine, the Gold Coaster, to write a recollection of those years. He gave Primus a look.

“Early on I was informed that Adams House had traditions and what some thought of as anti-traditions, things that Adamsians did not do, such as lock entry-doors…or wear bathing suits in the swimming pool.” Among the many traditions he recalls is the reading of a chapter from Winnie the Pooh at the Winter Feast. “Students and members of the Senior Common Room, solemn and unsmiling in formal dress, paraded into the Dining Hall, sat on stools, and gave a dramatic reading of ‘Expotition to the North Pole’ or ‘Pooh Sticks.’”

Kiely cites a transformative event in his first decade that “changed (for the better) life in the House for years to come.” It “began one lunchtime when a small group of students I thought I knew well joined me. When others at the table left, they began a bit shyly to explain that they were gay and hoped to form a student organization that would be recognized by the College and could hold meetings in Adams House. When they asked me to be one of their faculty advisers, I was deeply touched by their trust. (We have to try to remember that in the Harvard of that time, homosexuality was not part of the public conversation. When mentioned, it was either on the sly or with embarrassment. I recall a dean telling me that he had heard there were gay students at Adams and wondered if I wanted him to ‘do something about it.’ I told him that I never asked students about their sexual orientation and, in any case, I did not want anything to be ‘done about it.’) Over the next year or two, these students and their friends visited all the House masters and set up tables in all of the Houses inviting anyone who wanted to sit with them. It took courage. Some masters and students cooperated; others did not. One master told me that X House had no gays. It was ‘an Adams House problem!’ That spring I made a point to invite the newly formed organization to come with dates to the Waltz Evening, which they did, women with women, men with men. French Wall ’83 and his date cut in on my wife and me. When I found myself waltzing with a tall handsome junior, I asked, ‘Who should lead?’ I’ll never forget his answer. ‘You’re the master!’ ”


Sell signal: When more than 30 percent of each year’s newly minted M.B.A.s of the Harvard Business School take jobs related to the financial markets, the stock market is headed for a downturn, according to the Harvard M.B.A. Indicator, compiled for more than two decades by financial consultant Ray Soifer, M.B.A. ’65, B ’69, of Green Valley, Arizona. In September, Barron’s reported, worryingly, that 37 to 38 percent of this year’s class have taken market-sensitive jobs, rising from 31 to 32 percent last year. The magazine notes that “the indicator is still below the record 41 percent achieved in 2008, a very good year to have been short the stock market.”

You might also like

Steven Pinker on Apple’s Vision Pro

Professor of psychology on the science and history behind the Vision Pro.

The State of Black America

Harvard African American scholars take stock of a difficult moment. 

Threats Foreign and Domestic

Joseph Nye discusses geopolitics and Harvard’s challenges.

Most popular

Murphy Time

Harvard’s greatest football coach—and one of the best anywhere

Harvard Files Amicus Brief in Graduate Student Unionization Case

The University argues that the relationship between graduate students and universities should remain academic, not managerial, and student labor unions would “damage private sector graduate education.”

Labor Litigator

Attorney Shannon Liss-Riordan takes on the app economy.

More to explore

Photograph of Winthrop Bell 1910

Winthrop Bell

Brief life of a philosopher and spy: 1884-1965

Illustration of people talking to each other with colorful thought bubbles above their heads

Talking about Talking

Fostering healthy disagreement

Vacationing with a Purpose

New England “summer camps” for adults