"Ten Thousand Men of Harvard”—the logo, and John Harvard’s shoes

Members of the undefeated 2001 Crimson football team show flags at a 2011 tailgate in New Haven. Jared Lewis ’02, far left, holds the ancient Little Red Flag, which has been to many Harvard-Yale football games. He designed the new flag, and Kelly Goff made it. It is brandished, from left, by Justin Stark ’02, Jason Hove ’02, and Samuel Taylor ’02.

The iconographic device serving as the headline for this column means “Ten Thousand Men of Harvard.” In the words of the beloved fight song, they want victory today. 

The logo was born in the spring of 2010. Daniel Mee ’81, of Brighton, Massachusetts, is vice president of the Friends of Harvard Football. He and a few friends were thinking of giveaways for the annual FHF golf tournament, and Michael Durgin ’81, of Salem, Massachusetts, suggested a bumper sticker declaring “10 K Men.” They decided to do it in Latin. “I came up with a draft, and we were ready to go to press,” says Mee. “But I woke up that night in a cold sweat: what if it’s wrong....Yale would never let us forget it! The next day I went to my pastor, Msgr. William Fay of St. Columbkille Church in Brighton. He sent the text to one of his Pontifical Gregorian University classmates in Rome, who was then the lead translator of all papal bulls into Latin. The next day I got word that we did have an error: the x was underscored, when it needed to be overscored to indicate ‘multiply by 1,000.’ With confidence, we went to press. Subsequently, the logo has found its way onto jackets, lapel pins, and a flag.” 

“In Latin ‘10,000 men’ would normally be decem milia virorum (literally, ‘ten thousands of men,’ with ‘of men’ in the genitive case), so the nominative form viri could be problematic,” advises Richard J. Tarrant, Pope professor of the Latin language and literature. “The way around the difficulty would be to arrange the words in the opposite order, i.e., viri Harvardiani decem milia (‘men of Harvard to the number 10,000’), in which case the nominative is correct. I suppose the logo could be construed that way, and in any event its creator deserves high marks for ingenuity!”


* * *

Polished Harvardian. Few of the 10,000 men have shoes as shiny as the left shoe of the statue of John Harvard in the Yard. Tour guides instruct tourists to rub that shoe for luck, and rub they do. Artist and writer Sylvia Maynard ’44 of Cambridge attended her seventieth reunion last June and subsequently reflected on John’s toe-coverings.

Sylvia Maynard ’44 has dedicated a poem to “Asymmetrical John”

Photograph by Brooks Canaday/Harvard Public Affairs and Communications


Asymmetrical John

In solemn bronze he sits on high
With book on knee. His pensive eye
Seems gazing far beyond the Yard
Named after him, with no regard
For touring worshipers below.

Each, in turn, grabs that nearest toe,
While posing for the camera so.
Smile, click, it’s done. The next in line
Will rub that left shoe to a shine.
Until tour busses be abolished,
It’s perpetually polished,
Signaling shutterbugs “Come hither!”—
Yea, till the stock of the Puritans wither.

Still, I ponder—and put it to you:
Won’t somebody shine his other shoe?

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