Maybe it’s the lifelong student within me, but I’ve always had an affinity for college campuses and feel that the new year starts in September rather than in January. So there was little doubt that a visit to Harvard was going to be on the itinerary on my recent visit to Boston.
A short ride from the centre of Boston via the subway and you’re in Cambridge, a world that feels far different than the fifteen minute trip it took to get there. Here I am standing just outside one of the majestic sets of gates allowing entrance to Harvard Yard:
Not surprisingly, Harvard looks like what you think a university should look like. Inside the gates is the Old Yard, a large square enclosed by some of the main university buildings. On this perfect July afternoon, there’s a nice buzz of activity from day campers visiting the school and some grad students socializing and studying. The multi-coloured chairs scattered through the yard invite you take a break here.
My wife and I spent the afternoon doing a walking tour of Harvard guided by a podcast produced by the university that gave you some history of the key buildings and their functions in the university today. Walking through here brought back memories of our respective student days. There’s something about red brick buildings that make me want to crack open a book and start learning something new.
One of the most impressive buildings on campus is the Widener Library which will be celebrating its 100th year next year. It houses nearly four million books.
Just across the courtyard from the library is the Memorial Church of Harvard, another of the iconic buildings on campus. This church is dedicated to the men and women of Harvard who died in WWI.
At the end of the walking tour is University Hall, an American National Historic Landmark that was completed in 1815. In front of the building is a statue of John Harvard. New students here rub his left foot for good luck (that’s what the queue of people are waiting to do in the picture below). The statue is known as the statue of three lies because of its inscription: “John Harvard Founder 1638” – there’s no record of the appearance of John Harvard so this statue is a representation of his likeness, Harvard was founded by a collective not an individual and the vote to form the college happened in 1636. There is some debate as to whether these are actually lies or not, but I like the irony of a statue like this in such a public place in an institution dedicated to the seeking of truth.
After the walking tour was done, there was only one thing left to do. Make like a grad student, pull up a chair, and take some time to just soak in the surroundings.
It was a great afternoon at Harvard, and a lot easier on the pocketbook than a full graduate degree. It was also quite likely the only way I’d ever be let into this place…