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The Alumni

The Women's Entrance Revising "Fair Harvard"
Forward through Harvard Comings and Goings
Commencement Exercises G. Milton Smith: Mountaineer
David Hays: Trouper Nicolaus Mills: Concerned Citizen
Lisa Quiroz: Publisher Yesterday's News


For more alumni web resources, check out Harvard Gateways, the Harvard Alumni Association's website

Revising "Fair Harvard"

When Harvard and Radcliffe were growing closer 25 years ago, this magazine--specifically, Primus IV in "The College Pump"--dallied with the notion of updating the words of Harvard's anthem, written back in 1836, to include the institution's daughters as well as its sons. Nothing came of it.

In 1994 Kendric T. Packer '48, of Philadelphia, troubled by the exclusivity of "Fair Harvard! thy sons to thy jubilee throng," wrote Primus to propose a competition: "I imagine that someone in the extended [Harvard] family could find an elegant solution to the problem. If you wanted, you could use this as a baseline suggestion to be beaten: Fair Harvard! thy children rejoice at thy feast."

Packer's offering, published in the March-April 1994 issue, touched off a fusillade of comment and counterings that appeared in several subsequent issues of the magazine. "'Fair Harvard! thy children rejoice at thy feast' truly stinks," judged Pieter Greeff '58 of Strasburg, Virginia. "Please, not children," pleaded Col. Walter B. Kamp '43, of Bellevue, Nebraska. "How about 'we haste to thy jubilee throng,' or 'we join in a jubilee throng'?"

In April 1997 Jeremy R. Knowles, dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, sent a letter to alumni announcing that Harvard would celebrate the role of women at the College in the fall. Packer wrote Knowles back, in May, urging that "Fair Harvard" be revised. No better time. Packer had reviewed all of the suggested alterations published in this magazine in 1994 and had fixed on that of Kamp as being "the most economical," although Packer thought it would be better still as "Fair Harvard! we join in thy jubilee throng." Knowles replied in July that he would see what he could do.

"I felt that the time had come and that we should simply adopt the new line, as Packer urged," says Knowles. He spoke with dean of the College Harry R. Lewis, executive director of the Harvard Alumni Association Jack Reardon '60, and President Neil L. Rudenstine (at least some of whom in turn consulted other keepers of tradition) and secured their acceptance. Knowles then designated the Kamp-Packer line the official first line of "Fair Harvard." "I trust," says Knowles, "that without excessive fanfare, concern for correctness (political or other), or the torture of graceful verse, we have moved to a decent inclusiveness for the next 361 years."

Packer, a retired data-processing executive at an insurance company, attended a commemorative gate dedication on October 4 (see previous article) to hear the song sung. "I congratulated Knowles on his courage," says Packer. "There's certain to be some adverse reaction to any tinkering with tradition." Packer notes that when Lewis asked those attending the gate dedication at the close of the ceremony to sing "Fair Harvard," he referred them to the text printed on the program, saying that the words had been changed. A spontaneous cheer arose.

Kamp, a former Strategic Air Command bomber pilot and now a part-time real-estate broker in Bellevue, Nebraska, reached by this magazine and told of the outcome of his 1994 suggestion, said, "I didn't expect to make my mark on Harvard this way, but why not?"



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