The Harvard career of William Randolph Hearst '86 who died last Tuesday night was as turbulent and controversial as his later publishing activities. In three years he left a sufficient mark on the College to be denied the privilege of finishing a fourth.
It is difficult to separate legend from fact in ascertaining the exact cause of young Hearst's dismissal. The University archives are silent on the subject, and few of his octogenarian classmates can recollect the exact circumstances.
Doomed to be as persistent as the aura of myth surrounding the origin of the cry, "Rhinehart," is that Hearst expressed his art-collecting yen too early and too casually. In short, his gift to several professors of their visages etched on the bottom of chamber-pots proved that the Harvard of President Eliot did not have the hinterland sense of humor.
So Hearst went home to California and the editorship of the San Francisco Examiner.
During his three College years, Hearst had an opportunity to display some of the publishing talent that later built the greatest newspaper empire ever known in America. His field of activity was modest--the Harvard Lampoon.
He took over as business manager of the funny magazine when it was laboring under heavy arrears of debt, and in two years transformed it into a paying proposition. Out of his own funds he bought the first editors' "Sanctum," a dwelling which formerly stood on Mt. Auburn Street between Dunster and Holyoke Streets, next to what is now a parking lot.
George Santayana '86, a fellow classmate and Lampoon editor recalls:
"The fact that his father was a millionaire and a Senator from California gave him an independence that disturbed the undergraduate mind, and his long cigars were bad form in the Yard. Yet his budding prowess as a newspaper owner and manager made him invaluable to the Lampoon in its financial straights."
William B. Wheelwright '01, past president of the Lampoon, lived during his undergraduate days in 25 Holyoke St., which was Hearst's final place of residence before retirement from the Cambridge scene.
Yesterday he recalled that Hearst's and his own landlady, one Mrs. Budland, warmly regretted the former's departure. This lady, Wheelwright remembers, used to prepare the costumes for the club initiations which Hearst presided over in his three undergraduate clubs, The Institute of 1770, the Hasty Pudding Club (the two were not yet amalgamated), and the A. D. Club.
Although not particularly affectionate towards his alma mater in later years, Hearst retained a warm spot all his life for the Lampoon. Last fall he ordered all his newspapers to kill the story of the magazine's confiscation as pornography by the Cambridge District Court. He also subscribed to the bond issue which financed the present Lampoon structure.
On one occasion he personally penned an editorial published in all his newspapers rebuking the CRIMSON for an ungallant reception accorded Marjorie Woodward, a Hollywood starlet being entertained by the Bow Street men.
Apparently forgetful of the peccadillos of his youth he wrote: "However, in practical jokes let us draw the line . . . especially where young ladies are concerned.