Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Harvard University

Summertime means travel time. I'm lucky when it comes to travel. I've seen many of the world's landmarks up close and personal. Places like the Eiffel Tower, The Acropolis, Vatican City, Ayres Rock, Franz Josep Glacier, Norte Dame and Big Ben. For the next few postings I want to share some lesson plans I use for my students as I present some of America's outstanding landmarks and places of interest. So get your luggage packed and gas-up your mental car because we're off. Today, let's go to Harvard University:

Harvard University is a private university in Cambridge, Massachusetts and is a member of the Ivy League (8 private institutions of higher education in New England). It was founded in 1636 while Massachusetts was still a colony of England (16 years after the arrival of the Pilgrims at Plymouth). Harvard is the oldest institution of higher learning in the U. S. It is also the first and oldest corporation in North America.

Initially called "New College" or "the college at New Towne", the name was changed to Harvard College on March 13, 1639. It was named in honor of a young pastor John Harvard who gave the new college his library of four hundred books and half his personal wealth, $1,500 (or £750). The earliest known official reference to Harvard as a "university" occurs in the new Massachusetts Constitution of 1780.

The 1708 John Leverett became the first president who was not a Puritan pastor. In the 17th century, Harvard University started the Indian College to educate Native Americans but was discontinued by 1693. Between 1830 and 1870 Harvard became a private university ran by Boston's upper-class business and professional community and funded by private endowment. In 1870, Richard T. Greener became the first African-American to graduate from Harvard College. Seven years later, Louis Brandeis, the first Jewish justice on the Supreme Court, graduated from Harvard Law School.

During his forty years as Harvard president (1869-1909), Charles William Eliot changed the university into one of America’s most important research centers. Eliot's changes included elective courses, small classes, and entrance examinations and his ideas influenced higher education all over American. Eliot wrote university books and traveled making speeches and became so widely known that by the time of his death in 1926 his name (and Harvard’s) had become synonymous with the universal aspirations of American higher education.

Harvard's library collection contains more than 15 million volumes, making it the largest academic library in the world. Harvard has the largest financial endowment of any non-profit organization (except for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation), standing at $34.9 billion as of 2007. The university has 6,715 undergraduates and 12,424 postgraduates. It sits on 380 acres of land. The Harvard Advocate (founded 1866) is the nation's oldest college literary magazine. Famous people who have attended Harvard include Presidents Roosevelt, Kennedy, Nixon, and Bush and Vice President Al Gore and Sen. Barack Obama. Harvard’s nickname is Crimson and its color is red. Find out more about this center of higher education at:

Research info gathered at:

Now, here's one of my poems that is crimson too:

Do You Read Me, Copy?

His chair can purr.

He takes it everywhere he goes.
Some say he feels this unusual
closeness because the chair
reminds him of the basic animal
instinct in all of us. Others insist
the chair is simply his “security
blanket” he’ll never have to wash.
Whatever the reason, year after
year he carries it over a shoulder.
He once even had it upholstered in
a flame-stitch pattern using colors
taken from the rainbow. But the
chair remained non-committal with
sturdy legs. It prides itself in being
a perfect dance partner and never
eats meat. It can be positioned in
an endless variety of angles and
has a built-in microphone. Best of
all, when he finishes this life he can
just fold it up and ship it by parcel
post to that place, rumored to be
somewhere beyond the white light.

Poem first published at:
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Poem copyright 2008 by Maurice Oliver. All Rights Reserved.


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