Because the early records of the Harvard Alumni Association are "as bare as the proverbial widow's cupboard," it took William G. Roelker '09 to prepart the history of the Association's first stormy years which will be published in the May 24 issue of the Alumni Bulletin.
In "But Gentlemen, Who Shall Oversee the Overseers?" Roelker describes how the Association was founded and how it wrested control of the Board of Overseers from the Massachusetts legislature.
More than 200 copies of the 15-page article will be distributed to alumni attending the meeting of the Associated Harvard Clubs in New York.
Roelker first became interested in the early difficulties of the Association when he ran across a letter from Edward Everett written to the president of Brown University shortly after the founding of the Association in 1840, complaining of the lack of constructive alumni support.
Including several amusing incidents about the Association, "But Gentlemen. Who Shall Oversee the Overseers?" tells of one of the first formal alumni dinners which "was thrown into a very ungenial state," by the circumstances that the dinner was composed in a good degree of spoiled meats. Josiah Quincy, Jr. said it was rather a diet at Worms than a meeting of the alumni.
Although the Alumni Association was founded in 1940, it was not until 1865 when the University was divorced from political control and the Alumni were given the right to elect the Board of Overseers that the Association became an active force, Roelker says.