Report for the 65th reunion of the Harvard class of 1952, with comparative and historical notes
Frank Manheim and Howard King, editors
HOW THIS REPORT CAME ABOUT
The Class of 1952 grew up as children of the Great Depression (1930-1941) that descended like a gray curtain on the “roaring 20s”. Throughout much of American history issues of one kind or another created domestic conflict. From 1932 the Roosevelt administration and American industry had an antagonistic relationship that intensified in the second FDR administration (1937-1941).
December 7, 1941, changed everything. On that day 353 carrier-based Japanese fighter, bomber, and torpedo aircraft carried out a devastating attack on Pearl Harbor in two waves. The following day President Roosevelt described the attack in a speech to Congress, broadcast nationwide on radio, as “A day that will live in infamy”. Roosevelt immediately dropped all domestic antagonism, as did industry leaders. A keen judge of talent, Roosevelt appointed industry leaders to head the war production effort. The result was the greatest spurt in productivity in American history.
On December 8, 1941, Harvard President, James Bryant Conant, called a university-wide meeting at 8 PM in Sanders Theater. With loudspeakers transmitting his speech to overflow crowds, he addressed a turnout estimated at more than 6,000:
“Members of Harvard University: faculty, students, and staff: The United States is now at war. . . never before in the history of this republic has the United States entered a war with such unanimity of feeling. For never before has the case been so clear that we must resist with full vigor an unprovoked and treacherous attack. We are here tonight to testify that each one of us stands ready to do his part in ensuring that a speedy and complete victory is ours. To this end, I pledge all the resources of Harvard University”.
Conant predicted accurately. Never in American history was there such national unity in the United States. Government, business and industry, labor, scientists and engineers, the military, and the public all joined in unified effort in World War II. Notwithstanding foreign conflicts and domestic problems, a basic sense of community and optimism continued for a decade after the war. Members of the Class of 1952 attended Harvard during what was arguably the most harmonious period in United States history. The dramatic contrast with the decade of the 1960s is sketched in Part I.
“Positive” or “harmonious” is relative and doesn’t mean that the laws of human nature were revoked. However, a brief but eloquent evocation of how our times and Harvard shaped classmates’ attitudes can be interpreted from a classmate’s contribution to this reunion book.
The world is tough, and we realize we are not going to change it. Not enough time. We hope there is sunlight for kids and grandkids. I cherish my Harvard classmate friends.
The writer realistically recognizes troubles in America and the world. But he is not cynical. “If there were more time . . “ implies a belief that solutions are possible, an attitude accepted as “American” in his formative years. He hopes for the best for his kids and grandkids. Finally, he expresses warm feelings for his classmate friends.
Though many classmates who submitted reports for the 65th Reunion continued significant activities long after retirement the greatest impact on the editors was not career and other achievements, impressive as these were, but human qualities like the heartfelt love for partners in marriages of 60 years and more. Another noteworthy feature was the commitment to service to the community and to the nation.
These characteristics paralleled observations by Alumni Office coordinator for the 65th Reunion volume, Diane MacDonald, whose job enabled her to gain familiarity with Harvard reunion classes of various vintages. She observed that 1940s classes (“The Greatest Generation”) and many from the 1950s showed special qualities including loyalty and literate expression.
Reports of classmates stimulated Frank Manheim to explore the origin of educational systems and principles under which the Class of 1952 studied. This revealed critical roles for President Charles William Eliot (1869-1909) and our President, James Bryant Conant (1933-1953). Conant shared with Eliot the principle that higher education should focus on merit and serve the nation as well as the student. Both had a wider influence on American education. A less well-known Harvard educational leader, Francis Keppel, had a profound influence on American educational development from the 60s, in a direction different from Eliot and Conant. These men’s lives and activities are summarized in Part V.
This special overview was stimulated by the awareness that special characteristics of the Class of 1952 and other classes in the 1950s deserved examination in greater depth. It was made possible by the support of the 65th Reunion Committee, chaired by Laurence Leonard, and especially by the encouragement and cooperation of Kailey Walsh and Diane McDonald of the Harvard Alumni Office. The critical assistance of Barbara Meloni at the Harvard Archives is gratefully acknowledged.
I COMPARISON OF EVENTS WHILE CLASSES OF 1952 AND 1969 ATTENDED HARVARD
CLASS OF 1952
Foreign events: Cold War with the Communist bloc. German Federal Republic and NATO established; Apartheid established in South Africa; Chiang Kai-shek flees to Formosa as Chinese Communists take over. In 1950 70,000 North Korean troops stream into South Korea (1950), triggering Korean War.
Domestic events: Harry S. Truman defeats Thomas Dewey for full term as President (1948). Senator Joseph McCarthy claims State Dept. is riddled with Communists and Communist sympathizers. Julius & Ethel Rosenberg sentenced to death for espionage. The Draft is instituted in response to Korean War. Thurgood Marshall & NAACP initiate first Brown v. Board of Education suit (1951) in Topeka KS.
Harvard affairs: Congress rejects Conant’s Universal Military Service plan that would not permit college deferments but would shorten curriculum for vets. Harvard and Radcliffe students attend classes together under WWII “joint instruction” policy (“not coeducation”). Gen Ed becomes required curriculum (1951). Intense football rivalries with Princeton and Yale lead to riots in Harvard Square; Parietal rules allow women in rooms till 7PM.
Arts & culture. First color TV, LP record. Leroy Anderson (Harvard Class of 1925) composition “Blue Tango” (1951) is first classical piece to sell 1 million records [his son Kurt Anderson conducted 35-member ’52 alumni band in the 50th reunion concert]. Existentialism (Sartre, Camus) flourishes. Books: “Catcher in the Rye”, “Diary of Anne Frank”; “The Greatest Story Ever told”; “Old Man and the Sea”. Popular films: “The African Queen”, “High Noon”, “All the King’s Men”, “An American Paris”. Popular songs “Mona Lisa”, “Hello Young Lovers”, “Kisses Sweeter than Wine”, “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” Rock n Roll begins; long list of hit singers: Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, Patti Page, Frankie Laine, Johnny Ray, Perry Como, Joni James, Andrews Sisters,
The U.S. had always been fertile ground for urgent radical voices. However radical movements were mainly taken in stride in the Harvard of President Conant. The John Reed Club was named for an American former Harvard student (Class of 1910), lionized in the Soviet Union for his enthusiastic book about the Bolshevik Revolution, Ten Days that Shook the World. It sponsored two lectures by Gerhard Eisler. Eisler, described by Newsweek Magazine as the No.1 Red agent in America, gave his last lecture in 1949, just before he escaped law enforcement by leaving the U.S. on a Polish ship. He eventually ended up head of East German radio. Massive turnout at Sanders Theater for Eisler’s lectures was overwhelmingly due to curiosity, not affinity to socialism.
The Harvard Liberal Union expelled the more radical American Youth for Democracy (Later the SDS) because it felt it gave liberals a bad name. President Conant was quoted by the Harvard Crimson (Anonymous 1951) as follows:
“A professor’s political views are of no concern to the University; nor are his activities within the law as a private citizen.”
Neither did Senator Joseph McCarthy’s demagogic attacks affect most students. Their attitudes could be summed up as “I agree with his concerns but don’t approve of his methods”. A poem about McCarthy appeared in the Crimson on September 30, 1952.
“We’ve known a lot of anti-Commie guys,
An’ most of ’em knew how to take a punch;
They could face the Kremlin smears, the Lib’ral lies-
But McCarthy was the gamest of the bunch.
Now in that scrap he had with Lattimore,
They counted nine on Joe, but never ten;
He got up bloodied–but he thrives on gore-
An’ Owen’s never been the same again”
CLASS OF 1969
Foreign events: In Six-day War; Israel occupies Arab lands. Red China announces hydrogen bomb. Czechoslovakia invaded by Soviet troops. U.S. sends increasing troops to Vietnam troops; Tet Offensive, My Lai.
Domestic events: Race riots in Watts (Los Angeles 1965) leave 35 dead, 4,000 arrested, extensive property damage. Malcolm X assassinated (1965). Power systems in Northeast fail in Great Blackout 1965; new immigration law replaces 1921 Act. Supreme Court Miranda decision. Affective reforms transform U.S. K-12 educational policy. Apollo astronauts killed in spacecraft launch. Thurgood Marshall first black Supreme Court Justice. Assassination of Martin Luther King (1968) leads to riots in cities. Robert Kennedy assassinated. President Johnson announces he will not seek renomination. Richard Nixon defeats Hubert Humphrey. Santa Barbara offshore oil spill triggers environmental crisis & groundbreaking environmental laws.
Harvard affairs. In 1968, 200 students imprison Dow Chemical recruiter in Mallinckrodt Hall; 400 students take over University Hall to protest ROTC, University investment policy and other grievances; President Nathan Pusey calls the police. Sen. Eugene McCarthy starts presidential campaign at Harvard. Secretary McNamara car is blocked, he is heckled; 442 Harvard undergrads sign refusal to serve in armed forces while U.S. is in Vietnam. The Shah of Iran is commencement speaker. Controversy erupts over Afro-American Studies.
Arts & culture. Books: “Cold Blood”, “The Master and Margarita”, “Quotations from Chairman Mao”, “The Thousand Days”, “Valley of the Dolls”, “Rosemary’s Baby”, “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test”, “The Double Helix”, “Couples”, “The Population Bomb”, “Soul on Ice”; Popular films: “The Thomas Crown Affair”, “Funny Girl”, “The Odd Couple”, 2001: “A Space Odyssey”, “Lion in Winter”, “Oliver”, “In Cold Blood”. Popular music: Beatles, Elvis Presley, Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger, Jimi Hendrix: A Hard Day’s Night”, “Born Free”, “Ballad of Green Beret”, “Stoned Soul Picnic”.
An extraordinary volume of candid information about Harvard of the Class of 1969 is compiled in a detailed book about the Harvard Strike of 1968, including takeover of University Hall, ROTC facilities, and manhandling of African American Dean Archie Epps. It was written by four members of the student staff of the award-winning Harvard Radio Station (WHRB) (Eichel et al. 1970). The book makes it clear that Harvard in 1968 was not stable, deeply rewarding, place described by ’52 members. They report that (unlike faculty 10 years earlier)
“Faculty members are encouraged to pursue their own research often at the expense of teaching. Similarly, professors offer courses in the areas in which they are most interested, regardless of the overall needs of the university. In 1968 the English Department offered no undergraduate courses in either American or twentieth-century literature.”
While most students did not approve of the takeover and other violent acts, they tended to be against calling the police and were said to have a measure of sympathy for the radical element. In the commencement of 1968, President Pusey allowed an SDS student to speak – he subsequently led a noisy contingent of students out of the commencement. Among other things, Eichel et al. reports that parietal rules for women in dorms were first eased to 12 AM and by 1968 were no longer enforced at all.
II DATA PROFILES FOR THE CLASS OF 1952 AND 2020
Data sources: (Newby and French 1954); Harvard Annual Report, 1948-49 and 2020; other data from Harvard Archives.
Admissions comparisons. Table 1 shows that while matriculation for the Class of 2020 was only about 25% higher than for 1952, applications rose 13-fold. Getting accepted at Harvard is now vastly more difficult and subject to selection criteria. The 1339 students matriculated in 1948-9 were 20% greater than anticipated, because more “boys” (sic) were anticipated to go in the armed services. 56% were from public schools and 44% from private schools. Thirty-one percent made Dean’s list. Progress for 19% was “unsatisfactory”, and 4.3% were “severed”. There were 1066 degree recipients by June 1953.
Table 1. Comparisons of various characteristics of 1952 freshmen and comparisons with Class of 2020. For major subjects Class of 1952 reflects data aggregated from (Chutter 1952)
|Admissions||Class of 1952||Class of 2020||Geographic origin||Class of 1952||Class of 2020|
In our time practically all sons of Harvard graduates were admitted. In 1969, Harvard was admitting 20% of applicants, and made room for 40% of sons of grads (Kahn 1969). One 1952 classmate lamented that his children were not admitted.
Major and planned career occupations. Table 2 shows top eight majors for ’52 seniors (Chutter 1952). Major data for Class of 2020 is for freshmen (Harvard 2017). Table 3 shows breakdown of top eight planned occupations for Class of 1952. The top five planned fields for graduate study (%) were: English 12.0, History 11.0, Physics, 10.5 . Engineering 8.5, and International and Regional studies 7.0.
Table 2 Major, Senior poll Class of 1952; freshman poll, Class of 2020. Sources: Chutter (1952); (Harvard 2017).
|Major %||Class of 1952||Class of 2020|
Table 3 Planned occupations for Class of 1952
|Professional (top 8)||%||Nonprofessional||%|
|Medicine||30.3||Mfg. and production||34.0|
|Teaching & education||18.9||Government service||15.2|
|Scientific research||10.7||Banking and finance||11.0|
|Engineering||4.7||Writing and journalism||8.7|
One-year follow-up survey June, 1953 (Newby and French 1953)
In the summer of 1953, a questionnaire of members of the Class of 1952 received 876 responses. 761 of these had received Harvard A.B. degrees. Of the latter number, the breakdowns were: graduate school 52.2%, military service 32.8%, and occupations 15.0%. The top occupations were business, manufacturing, banking and finance, engineering, and science.
III EXCERPTS FROM CLASS REPORTS
Space limitations for this contribution to the Reunion book offer limited us to arbitrarily selected quotes to give a flavor of the rich diversity – but often remarkably consistent features of classmate reports. These excerpts should not be regarded as “bests” because there are incalculably many “bests”, and modest statements are a critical part of balance.
Business, industry and government
Sidney Knafel has been a significant donor to Harvard University, the first being donation of $14 million to the Center for Government and International Studies. He reports:
“Over the past 65 years I have used the preceding editions of this five-year reporting journal to comment on . . . my own paths into the world of commerce, and eventually into the world of selective, not-for-profit entities. But for this report I should like to give a far different observation – concerning what has happened since we received our ‘AB degrees.“ [see a capsule summary of Knafel’s conclusions under Philosophy …]
In the early 1950s manufacturing and marketing of products offered diverse opportunities for career growth.
Doug Kinney chose the assembly line at General Motors in Flint Michigan, becoming a youthful foreman in 1956. By 1967 he had become director of manufacturing at Intermatic Inc., moving to merchant banking with Lehmann Brothers in Chicago. He remains active in finance, reporting a Trek Bicycle startup and alternative energy projects, and is Trustee Chairman of the Tropical Botanical Gardens in Kauai, Hawaii.
Paul Landry said “the best part of my checkered career was forming a corporation”. Son Paul is guiding construction of high tech airport terminals in Atlanta, Abu Dhabi, and Salt Lake City. Sydney Miller also takes pride in his son’s excellent job as president of the family business. He finds greatest pleasure in watching seven grandchildren grow up, each “finding success in their own fields, some of which didn’t even exist when we were graduates”.
One of the Class of 52’s best known politicians was John Ashbrook, who died prematurely at age 53. He was a conservative Congressman from Illinois, of whom the Almanac of American Politics said “His career was a continual triumph of idealism over practicality, of principle over effectiveness.”
Service in government finds David Ashenden a former geologist with the Massachusetts Water Resource Authority, and Herbert Levin, retired to Manhattan after a 35-year career in Foreign Service. Frank Manheim moved to policy research after 35 years with the U.S. Geological Survey.
It’s excruciating to leave unspoken the wealth of many classmates’ comments on Harvard.
John Bardis reminds us that the Class of 1952 elected three class marshals, Chase Peterson, Red Lewis, and Walter Carrington to the Permanent Class Committee – “.“They served for six decades through the Reunion of 2012.” “Carrington is the only one surviving to lead”.
After an MD at Harvard, Peterson, a Mormon, set up medical practice in Salt Lake City, but returned to Harvard as Dean of Admissions. He later was a Vice President of Harvard and President of the University of Utah. Through all this, he served as a class marshal and in fundraising for the Class’s contributions. Without diminishing credit to Lewis and Carrington, one can cite the parable In Matthew: 23,25, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
A prevailing theme by classmates is offered by Allan Lichtenberg
“I still look fondly at my undergraduate time at Harvard, where much of my philosophical outlook was formed. The outer world seems chaotic, perilous, and sad in many places” [but this has not affected him at the core.]
Paul Mohling comments:
“It gives me pleasure and gratification to look back and recall the heaven that was Harvard . . . Discovering a love of books and learning were dividends that have kept on paying .“
Referring rhetorically to the hand dealt him in life, he adds:
“I’m content with the Royal Flush I hold consisting of my family, health, and sufficient blessings of this world’s goods.”
William Lindamood offers an observation echoed in other reports:
“Although I dearly love my Alma Mater, it is not the well-rounded liberal arts college that it once was. I look forward to the time when opposing viewpoints are not stifled by political correctness.”
A surprising proportion of octogenarian classmates report good health. This contrasts with current media reports that for the first time in history the longevity of American men declined in 2016 rather than increased as in all other advanced nations.
Donald Silberger, writes
“The present is the happiest period of my life. At eighty-six and a half years, I retain good health and (I am told) cognitive function, an ability to walk, albeit slowly, but without mechanical assistance, and the presence of uniformly loving and healthy family and friends.”
“acquired much new hardware, repairing a variety of extremity fractures. It is perhaps of interest to classmates that the hardware was largely introduced in this country by my roommate, our classmate, and my wife’s brother-in-law, [the late] John Border, ’52 MD.”
“Last July my aviation-medical examiner renewed my second-class certificate so I could keep on doing flight instruction for hire. The doctor said, “The good news is that at your age you cannot die prematurely.”
Loss and aging
Class members share moving stories of response to loss
Although she was in poor health and in a wheelchair for several years, I was not prepared for the grief and loneliness when [my wife] died. Mary Alice was my best friend, a loving wife, and mother, preschool teacher, social worker, teacher of college courses, and my working field partner for twenty-seven summer field seasons of geologic research . . .. Our life together is recorded in a paperback book ‘Listening to the Rocks–a Geologist’s Life with Mary Alice’, available on Amazon.com/books. I try to remember, don’t cry it ended, smile it happened.
“Robin and I use more and more of the facilities of the CCRC where we live as we suffer the common losses that come with aging. However, our family is extremely supportive and we are able to keep each other going. I feel blessed.”
“This long goodbye . . was both a very loving and difficult time – as she progressed through stages of not speaking, eating only chopped food. . only food fed to her and finally no food. So how do I approach all of this? First, Judy is still part of me and will always be so. Family next and then longtime friends . . I am very engaged in this retirement community, with the Democratic Party in DC . . and most promising, I am writing about my life experiences. Judy superbly taught about this.”
“Needless to say, the saddest time, with sadness that continues, was her passing . . . Her last 6 months, with aggressive breast cancer, were lived to the fullest.
The editors independently reported profound impact from declarations of love for spouses to whom classmates had been married for 60 and more years. Marriages of up to 65 years indicate that many classmates married soon after graduation – different from contemporary patterns. Divorces were rare. Warm relations with successful children and grandchildren are characteristic, often cited as compensation for the loss of spouses.
“Life’s been good starting 65 years ago when I married my sweetheart, Helen, who is still the girl of my dreams.”; “What’s most satisfying in later life is family. Suzanne and I celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary last August. She is everything to me.”; “The Lord has been good to me and blessed me with 58 years of marriage to Sondra, her love, and love from daughters and grandchildren.”; “My dear wife, Rhea (Rosemarie) passed away 22 years ago; the grief of her passing has been eased by my four children, Lisa, Jeff, Brian and Stephen, their accomplishments and their children; Each of the children has 3 children, always two boys and girl, 12 grandchildren in all.”
Finally, we cite the limerick poet who supplied the poem at the end of this report:
“In my Harvard days, in an attempt to woo my lady fair, I would write her limericks and I guess she liked it. “Oh, Bill, it was beautiful, and I have it pasted on my door!” 60 years later I have my lady fair and still write poetry that she puts on her door.”
Music was a strength in the Class of 1952. It was said to provide up to 60 players in the 150-member Football Marching Band. The 50th Reunion full-length concert organized by Frank Manheim closed with a 35-member alumni band (with a few undergrad ringers) led by Kurt Anderson, a son of composer Leroy Anderson (Harvard Class of 1925). For the first time in history, the President of the Harvard Glee Club was an African American, Jim Harkless (’52). He reports that about 30 members of the Glee Club were members of the Class of 1952.
Alfred Crosby recollects that
“As a seventeen-year old freshman, I went to Aaron Copland [the noted American composer] during his office hours and held forth to him about jazz. He listened patiently and on one occasion asked me if I would like an ice cream cone. . . In my own academic career, I have had the opportunity to offer graduate seminars on the history of jazz at the ,
John Grover reports
“I played trombone in the Band, and Philippa and I both remember those triumphant marches through the Square after a Harvard football victory! I resumed playing my horn after my retirement from obstetrics and gynecology, playing with a Dixieland band in Arlington Heights before this last move . . .Philippa and I feel blessed by the lives we have shared, and remember the experiences and adventures during those Harvard years more joyfully than anything else.”
Lawrence Leonard, Chairman of the Reunion Committee, reports that
“I am still singing with my fifty-man barbershop chorus in Florida.” And Clint Nangle says that “If you hear a song called ‘Nights are Always Darkest’, it was written by Colman Mockler and me 65 years ago in Cronin’s.”
So far as we are aware, Richard Sogg performed on piano in every Reunion musical offering and reports that he continues to perform in solo and chamber music.
Philosophy, history, law
Picking a few samples from the richness and diversity of comments is an excruciating challenge. It offers encouragement to everyone to read the whole reunion report.
Sidney Knafel concludes that
“Wendell Willkie’s One World directed our mind to reject isolationism, address mutual needs with cooperative attitudes; This gave us optimism. Since then [we have had] huge economic growth and prosperity enjoyed on all continents, strides in technology: now these are suddenly threatened; there are exotic monetary devices, barriers to products; optimism has disappeared; I beseech all of us to find ways to regain optimism.”
Paul Altrocchi offers unconventional, fascinating studies and conclusions about Shakespeare’s authenticity.
Inspired by George Washington’s letter to a Hebrew congregation in Rhode Island cited below, John Loeb formed the George Washington Institute for Religious Freedom (GWIRF
“It is now no more that toleration is spoken of as if it were the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights, for, happily, the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens. . . May the children of the stock of Abraham who dwell in this land continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants — while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree and there shall be none to make him afraid.”
“I worry about our great-grandchildren’s future. This is not why I went to Selma so many years ago. Or is it? I wanted everyone to have a voice, a vote, so I must accept that a majority vote would “trump” my personal wishes”
Here is a sample of Mark Hansen’s succinct review of life in America since our graduation:
“We also benefited greatly from the years of relative stability and growth which followed. Most of us were not very aware of the “others” who struggled and fell behind, but we did work hard at the important and useful careers and life plans we were able to choose. We lived through and survived the start of the nuclear age and the Cold War, only to be confronted now with those continuing threats, and the incredibly difficult and dangerous consequences of our national hubris”
Norman Kline follows suggestions of the ancient Greeks:
“If fulfilling one’s inborn capacities and talents to the greatest degree and engaging in a life of intellectual challenge that characterizes a profession in the law plus creating a family constitutes happiness, as the ancient Greek philosophers would have it, then I have been truly happy. Robert Browning’s Poem, Rabbi ben Ezra: ‘Grow old along with me; the best is yet to be, the last of life for which the first was made: Our times are in His hand; Who saith ‘A whole I planned, Youth shows but half; trust God; see all, nor be afraid.’”
The below plaint expresses the puzzlement of classmates over today’s politics. They grew up in a time when the U.S., the victor in World War II, conducted itself in a way that made defeated Germany and Japan America’s best friends for decades after.
“I continue to be very disappointed in our politicians and pretty much with the full media spectrum, including television. In a country of over three hundred million, one wonders why common sense, intelligent leaders have not come to the fore. …”
With similar questions in mind, Frank Manheim returned to academia after retiring as a federal ocean and earth scientist. He wanted to track the origin of problems he was exposed to in his professional career. His report finds current problems traceable to repeated overreaction since the 1960s. The famous French student of American democracy, Alexis de Tocqueville, already observed American tendencies for impulsivity in national politics 170 years ago. He concludes that we grew up in a time of relatively sensible public affairs.
In spite of revulsion for the election campaign of 2016, a classmate retains his sense of community with voters who have opinions different from his:
“My fondest hope is that the outcome of next Tuesday’s election and not endanger – life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for my grandchildren and their descendants. . .. I do leave room for acknowledging the sanity of most of those who may disagree with my politics.”
Almost all reports were submitted before the presidential election in November 2016. Many comments were negative to Donald Trump, elegantly so in this comment:
My insistence on bidding three no trump in bridge lies in the perverse pleasure to say “no trump, no trump, no Donald Trump.”….
Others seem soured on the election and national political dysfunction more generally.
“I am very concerned by our national plight as the 2016 election approaches. It appears that we are dealing with the evil of two lessers.”
Science, medicine, and engineering
Part I documents that the greatest number of classmates in professional fields went into medicine followed by law. They often served or continue to serve as clinical leaders in their specialty areas in hospitals, as professors in medical schools, writers of professional articles and textbooks. There are numerous scientists and fewer engineers.
Howard King received an award in 2017 from the American Academy of Pediatrics for 50 years of work integrating mental health concepts with pediatric care. He shares that field with Christopher Hodgman, professor of psychiatry and clinical pediatrics at the University of Rochester. Howie has served the class for 32 years as hospitality chairman.
Basil Pruitt, U. Texas Medical Center, is a world authority on burn surgery and is
“. . concerned by the seeming emphasis on personal comfort rather than patient wellbeing, and the ready acceptance of unfounded conclusions of flawed studies, some of which have even appeared in high impact journals.”
Charles Breslow’s achievements as a professor of chemistry were recognized by membership in the U.S. National Academy of Science at the age of 35; he is also a member of the Royal Society and recipient of 75 medals; two students have received Nobel prizes. He has a new drug approved for use in the U.S., Canada, and Japan, and continues to teach a course with material not yet in textbooks.
Born in Slovenia and displaced with family during the Communist takeover, Robert Grasselli received a scholarship to Harvard. He became a research chemist at SOHIO, rising to Director of Catalysis, helping develop breakthroughs in plastics and synthetic rubber. After early retirement, Grasselli became Director of Chemistry at the Office of Naval Research. After other activities, he remains a professor at the Center for Catalytic Science and Technology, University of Delaware. Over his career, Grasselli was awarded 175 U.S patents, holds international awards and was inducted into the U.S. National Hall of Fame for Engineering Science and Technology. He closes a 4.5-page report with
“You, dear classmates, gave me a second lease on life, and I want you to know that your efforts were not in vain . . . I thank you from all my heart!”
Besides the 60-year service of our original three marshals, appointed in 1953, Class Secretary Bill Bliss has served for decades.
The perspective of service offered below by Peter Fleming is an eloquent statement of a theme that echoes observations about classes in this period by alumni reunion coordinator, Diane McDonald.
“One looks back and hopes one has taken fair advantage of one’s single lifetime and given back in civic and community service at least partial recompense for what our society and communities have so richly given us.“
Service can range from a former communications satellite engineer expressing joy in serving as a humble math aide in a charter high school, to writing state statutes or helping save New York City’s Grand Central Station.
Roland Giddis reported:
“Tutoring math at learning centers and in public high schools wherever my wife Jackie and I lived. I joined the staff of Six Rivers Charter High School in Areata as a Math Aide. It has been the joy of my life. I am proud of the intellectual and emotional growth of students, and hope that I am helping a few along their way to maturity.”
“worked on the development of a historic preservation program in New York City, including the saving of Grand Central Station. At the National Trust for Historic Preservation, I provided assistance to more than 100 cities.”
In addition to his work as a lawyer, Peter Gossels served the Town of Wayland as a member of the finance committee, as town counsel, and as moderator for thirty years.
“Among my contributions to the town were the codification of the rules for town meetings and the institution of electronic voting (Wayland was the first town in the nation to institute this form of voting). My contributions in the Commonwealth include my work on the statute, which brought condominiums to Massachusetts, and the statute that created the first no-fault system of auto insurance, based in part on the concept developed by Jeffrey O’Connell ’54 and Professor Robert E. Keaton of the Law School.
Reluctantly curtailing further examples of services, we end this topic with Nathaniel Harris and Christopher Hodgman’s description of their retirement.
“When I am not mowing the lawn or going to the dentist, I try to use my spare time wisely. I donate time to the local land trust, either on a couple of committees or inspecting properties.” ; “ . . giving up my medical license (professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at the University of Rochester Medical School), my principal volunteer job is for the Cornell Agricultural Extension as a Master Gardener.”
IV RELEVANT HARVARD HISTORY (by Frank T. Manheim)
The distinguished Princeton historian, Daniel T. Rogers, says in a book published in 2012 that we now live in an “Age of Fracture”. Many groups in society have stopped looking for common ground. Civics, mandatory when we were in high school, was abandoned in the 1960s. History, the field believed by the founders to be critical for statecraft and general culture, was popular at Harvard in our time but has been fragmented or abandoned by leading American universities. A female undergraduate who last year called in support of the College fund drive was asked whether there was a history requirement at Harvard. “Yes”, she said, “I’m meeting mine with a course in the history of foods”(!)
Charles Eliot (1834-1926). The importance of Harvard president Eliot for the educational principles under which we studied was rediscovered in research for this report. Charles William Eliot served as president of Harvard for a record-setting 40 years, from 1869 to 1909. Graduating from Harvard University in 1853, he was appointed Tutor in Mathematics in 1854 and Assistant Professor of Mathematics and Chemistry in 1858. He had been born in a prominent Boston family which, however, lost all it money by this time. In 1863 he traveled to Europe to study its educational institutions and systems.
Eliot didn’t just look at famous universities. He explored every aspect of education, not excluding janitorial services and finance. He took a special interest in the relationship of education to societal activities. Never was there such a bold and content-rich inauguration speech as that given by the youthful Eliot (35 years of age) at his investiture as President of Harvard University in 1869. Historian Morison reported, “The delivery lasted an hour and three-quarters, during which one might have heard a pin drop”. He began:
“The endless controversies whether language, philosophy, mathematics, or science supplies the best mental training, whether general education should be chiefly literary or chiefly scientific, have no practical lesson for us today . . . We would have them all, and at their best.”
Eliot declared that
“The poorest and the richest students are equally welcome here, provided that with their poverty or their wealth they bring capacity, ambition, and purity. (Warner and others 1918).”
Eliot implemented most of his proposals during his long tenure and is credited with transforming Harvard from a provincial college to the preeminent research university in America.
Among the many developments were the Graduate School, Radcliffe College, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, the largest and most comprehensive medical school complex in America, and the appointment of C. C. Langdell, who as Dean turned the struggling Law School into the leading law institution in the nation.
Eliot broke with existing practice in allowing undergraduates to choose three-quarters of their courses. This bold innovation was soon emulated by other universities. Citing historian Samuel Morison (Morison 1936), the Wikipedia article on Eliot cites:
“One after the other, the greater universities of the country followed the reforms that Harvard had adopted. the Harvard of Eliot [. . .] had set new standards for higher education in America (Wikipedia 2016).
Eliot’s influence was not limited to universities. Responding to a commission from the National Educational Association, he convened the “Committee of Ten” that oversaw development of the “classical high school curriculum model” (Committee-of-Ten 1894). It was designed to not only prepare students for higher education but to also be taken by those not going on to college, equipping them with skills that would serve their working life and make them informed citizens. This reflected Eliot’s concern to avoid educational stratification in the America. Despite repeated efforts of progressive reformers after 1918, variants of the model dominated most U.S. high schools until the “affective reforms” of the Johnson Administration. Most of the Class of 1952 probably studied in high school under updated versions of the “classical model”.
James Bryant Conant (1893-1978). Graduating from Harvard College in 1913, Conant gained his PhD in three years with a dual dissertation in physical and organic chemistry. After serving in the Army’s poison gas laboratory during World War I Conant joined the Harvard faculty as a professor of chemistry from 1919 to 1933 when he became president. Without taking formal leave from Harvard University, in 1940 he became Chairman of the National Defense Research Committee, helping guide developments like radar, the atom bomb, and synthetic rubber. After World War II he served until 1953, when he became U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, subsequently taking a strong interest in American secondary education, arguing that all students should have grounding in the sciences.
Like Eliot, Conant believed that universities had responsibilities both to the student and the nation. His predecessor, Abbott Lawrence Lowell (1856-1943), was a distinguished intellectual who greatly expanded Harvard’s facilities, student body and endowment; he introduced the House system to Harvard. Lowell was a progressive in many respects but sought to restrict Jewish enrollment and ban African Americans in the freshman halls (in both cases overruled by the Harvard Board of Governors) (Wikipedia 2017).
Conant was an egalitarian, opened all classes to Radcliffe women, initiated National Scholarships and other efforts to expand the geographic distribution of Harvard students beyond New England, and introduced the Gen Ed plan for a common core of liberal education including humanities, social and natural science for all students. Probably based on his meritocratic principles, Conant did not make special efforts to expand the participation of African Americans or other ethnic groups. Conant wrote an autobiography (Conant 1970).
Francis Keppel (1916-1990). Through an unconventional career route Keppel was appointed by President Conant to fill the vacancy for Dean of the Harvard School of Education in 1948, the year our class arrived at Harvard. He was to have a fateful but currently little-known influence on education in America.
Keppel was raised in New York City in a family concerned with social reform (Rury 2017). His father, Frederick P. Keppel, was a Dean at Columbia University and later became President of the Carnegie Foundation.
Keppel gained a B.A. in English Literature at Harvard in 1938, along with admission to Phi Beta Kappa. He first sought a career as a sculptor at the American Academy in Rome, Italy, but after a year returned to Harvard where he took a position as Assistant Dean of Admissions. After serving as an officer in World War II, Keppel returned to Harvard as an assistant to the Provost. His dynamic personality captured the attention of President Conant, who selected him to fill the vacant post of Dean of the Harvard School of Education – though he had only a B.A. degree. In 14 years as Dean, the school expanded in size and increased enrollment tenfold. Keppel was especially interested in testing reform ideas and innovations.
“He also promoted experiments in team teaching, programmed learning, curricular reform, and educational television . . forged ties to other departments in the social sciences and humanities at Harvard. He was a widely respected leader nationally as well, serving on a number of important committees, task forces, and councils.” (Rury 2017)
In 1962 President John F. Kennedy (Harvard Class of 1940) appointed Keppel Commissioner of Education, a post in which Keppel’s leadership skills and social sensibilities made him highly influential. When the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare was created in 1965 Keppel became Assistant Secretary for Education. He was an aggressive advocate for civil rights and is regarded as the principal architect of the Elementary and Secondary School Act of 1964 (ESEA). Title I of this act is devoted to providing funds for schools teaching poor or disadvantaged children. In consequence of a controversy in Chicago, Keppel resigned in 1966 and was replaced by Harold Howe II.
ESEA greatly expanded federal influence on education. While its motives were praiseworthy, its transformations, supported by private foundations and progressive reformers in leading schools of education, had a negative effect on school performance. The National Commission on Excellence in Education in 1983 found that SAT scores declined every year for 14 years from 1964, and that “nearly 40 percent of 17-year olds could not draw inferences from written materials.” (Gardner 1983).
The continuing influence of the 60s reforms on public literacy can be gauged by a 2016 report released by the Annenberg Center for Public Policy (University of Pennsylvania). It found that only one American in 4 could name all three branches of the federal government. Thirty-one percent could not name one – e.g. Congress.
Anonymous. 1951. Conant Says Red Teachers Should Be Refused Post. Harvard Crimson, http://www.thecrimson.com/article/1951/11/5/conant-says-red-teachers-should-be/?utm_source=thecrimson&utm_medium=web_primary&utm_campaign=recommend_sidebar.
Chutter, Harriett E. 1952. Occupational Plans of Harvard Seniors, 1951-52. Office of Student Placement.
Committee-of-Ten. 1894. Report of the Committee of Ten on Secondary School Studies: With the Reports of the Conferences Arranged by the Committee. Washington D.C. : National Educational Association Original edition, 24 chapters
Conant, James Bryant. 1970. My Several Lives: Memoirs of a Social Inventor (New York, 1970).
Eichel, Lawrence, Kenneth W. Jost, Robert D. Luskin, and Richard E. Neustadt. 1970. The Harvard Strike: Houghton Mifflin Co.
Gardner, David P. et al. 1983. A Nation at Risk. Report of the National Commission on Excellence in Education.
Kahn, E.J. 1969. Harvard: Through Change and Through Storm: W.W. Norton.
Morison, Samuel Eliot. 1936. Three Centuries of Harvard: Harvard University Press.
Newby, Louis L., and Wendell L. French. 1954. Harvard University Office of Student Placement.
Rury, John L. 2017. “Francis C. Keppel (1916–1990).” StateUniversity.com http://education.stateuniversity.com/pages/2145/Keppel-Francis-C-1916-1990.html.
Vaillant, George. 2015. Triumphs of Experience: The Men of the Harvard Belknap Press, Harvard.
Waldinger, Robert. 2015. What makes a good life? Lessons from the longest study on happiness: Ted Talk. https://www.ted.com/talks/robert_waldinger_what_makes_a_good_life_lessons_from_the_longest_study_on_happiness/transcript?language=en.
Warner, C.D., and others. 1918. Inaugural Address as President of Harvard College by Charles William Eliot (1834–1926). In The Library of the World’s Best Literature. An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. http://www.bartleby.com/library/prose/1864.html.
Wikipedia. 2016. “Charles William Eliot.” Wikipedia.
Wikipedia. 2017. “Abbott Lawrence Lowell “. Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abbott_Lawrence_Lowell.
How to know a class
Going through a Reunion yearbook usually disperses impressions with heterogeneous detail and names of classmates who did not provide reports. As important and valuable as these periodic Reunion volumes (and the dedicated process of compiling them) are, most people will not be able to gain a coherent picture of the people listed within the covers.
Younger Harvard alumni and other people might understandably assume that 65th Reunion reports of classmates aged 85-to early 90s would dwell on nostalgia, inevitable losses with age, travel, family life and avocational activities of retired folks separated from realities of the world of today.
However, when we placed messages extracted from Class member reports into relevant life categories, a rich trove of insights emerged. Besides expected positive career and avocational achievements, some continuing late in life, and interesting hobby, travel and cultural engagements, there were observations of societal developments with unusual philosophical depth. There were poems both original and artfully selected, like Robert Browning’s “Rabbi Ben Ezra”:
Grow old along with me; the best is yet to be, the last of life for which the first was made: our times are in His hand; Who saith “A whole I planned, Youth shows but half; trust God; see all, nor be afraid.
There was quirky humor with bite:
Some things have grown obvious over the last 5 years; why they put arms on chairs, the increased anxiety of tripping over the dog, drug store glasses no longer work, headlights cause more trouble than help and dropping civics from high school curriculum is now proving to be America’s downfall.
There were also reports of quiet, modest lives with enjoyment of contact with classmate friends.
Greatest impact: love and service
The greatest surprise and emotional impact came from expressions of heartfelt love for partners of 50 to 60 and more years of marriage. One classmate reported that he was in his “sixty-fifth year of marriage, preceded by 10 years of courtship”. It must have begun when he was eleven or twelve! Many classmates married soon after graduation. Virtually all those devoted partners reported warm relations with successful children and grandchildren – and great grandchildren. It supports the findings of the Grant Study that followed Harvard undergraduates for three decades. It is eloquent testimony to the positive impact of harmonious parents on successive generations – even though children are now growing up in times when national divorce statistics are around 50%.
Another strong impression came from accounts of service, mentioned as a normal or expected activity in return for what had been given to classmates by Harvard and society. Some classmates continued sustained service positions after retirement longer than the period of their career employment period.
What accounts for this sense of service? Potential contributors to the service motivation include the sense of national community engendered in Americans during World War II and continuing for a decade thereafter, and mandatory civics courses in high school. The Great Depression may be a factor. It caused Aaron Copland to stop writing avant-garde music for intellectual elites and think more about larger audiences. His compositions from 1933 to 1950, like “Rodeo”, and “Appalachian Spring” comprise most of the music for which he is now remembered.
Don’t underrate the Hays Production Code for Hollywood films, introduced in 1930. Censorship is widely disapproved of today and the Hays code has been described as prudish and repressive. But instead of today’s movies that feature sleaze, violence , and dystopian relationships, the code helped create an environment in which popular films like “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” emphasized civic virtue.
Health, losses, and social developments
A surprising number of classmates reported good health, some looking confidently forward to the 70th Reunion. There were candid descriptions of illness and moving descriptions of losses and grief, but the latter feelings were usually assuaged by love and support by children and grandchildren.
A substantial number of classmates express disappointment or anger about political or social developments in the United States in recent years, especially the election campaign of 2016, which had not yet taken place when most reports were submitted.
Competence, tempered realism, and happiness
Most classmates have done well in their lifetimes, whatever their field of activity. Classic Greek ideas were mentioned: that happiness is achieved by working to ones’ potential along the lines of excellence. But the overwhelming lesson from this class, as well as the continuing “Harvard Study of Adult Development” (Waldinger 2015, Vaillant 2015)that began in 1938, is that good relationships not only make us happy, they protect our bodies and our brain. A remarkably succinct capsule that touches on this theme was cited earlier:
“The world is tough, and we realize we are not going to change it. Not enough time. We hope there is sunlight for kids and grandkids. I cherish my Harvard classmate friends.”
American education then and now
President Eliot made groundbreaking contributions to both American university and pre-university education. Our president, James Bryant Conant, embraced Eliot’s concept that university education should serve the individual and the nation. He expanded effort to increase the geographical representation of Harvard students, but was not a good fundraiser.
The 50s have an unjustified bad image for some people – who tend to associated it with racial segregation and the glass ceiling for women. What this obscures is that the stain of legal segregation of African Americans was finally lifted by the vanguard of a generation of gifted black leaders. Their brilliant and courageous activities led to the Supreme Court’s 1954 Brown vs Board of Education decision that reversed Plessy vs Ferguson (1896). It was a far safer nation with a fifth of today’s crime rates. The great majority of both black and white families grew up in nuclear families and the lowest income groups had faster growth in income than high income groups. People were confident about the future.
The America of our student days is not the America of today. Some things have improved, but a report by the Annenberg Center on Public Policy in 2016 and historical SAT scores show that one of the most significant negative developments today compared with the 1950s is the major decline in public literacy. Historical review for this report revealed that Francis Keppel, Dean of the School of Education while we were at Harvard, was a magnetic and creative personality who dramatically increased the enrollment and influence of the School of Education. But in his later position as Commissioner of Education in the Johnson Administration, he was influential in promoting experimental policies that ended the more rigorous “classical high school model” initiated under the leadership of President Eliot. It served us and the United States well.
We end our report with a quote dedicated to our class
“Tuition eats up what he’s earning,
While the holes in his pocket keep burning.
When Daddy cried “Stop!”
They replied, “Sorry, Pop,
Old ’52 never stops learning.”
This poem is my acknowledgement of a class without equal,
held high in the hands of the greatest university on earth.
William Foster Mitchell