To many of us, John Harvard is nothing more than a name to conjure with. To others, he is an impersonal bronze statue in the delta, valuable only as a subject for cartoonists. But that name and that statue have a deeper significance. The pensive young Puritan seated in the shadow of Memorial Hall embodies in a way the spirit that the University is proudest to foster: an earnest thoughtfulness. John Harvard was a young nonconforming divine who came to this continent in the early days of the colony in search of freedom for his thought and teaching. He was not much over thirty when he died, leaving half his fortune and his whole library --of considerable size for those days--to be used by the college which the General Court was about to establish. His bequest was the chief support of the new college, which was accordingly given his name.
That little library of 300 volumes has swelled until today it is the largest University library in the country. His donation has become a rich endowment. His name and his ideals have lived and been carried out into the world, during almost three centuries, by tens of thousands, among them many of the nation's greatest men. Tradition in itself is valueless; but when it is used as a guide and an inspiration, it may be of the greatest significance. Today, John Harvard's birthday, we pay grateful honor to his memory.