Fifty-four years ago, Calvin Coolidge was the newly inaugurated president of the United States; the same year John Sullivan came to Harvard. Coolidge, a silent flash in the panorama of presidents, did his part for America and then quietly withdrew. John Sullivan, now nearing 80, is still at Harvard, helping out the Athletic Department as per usual for the last half-century.
A World War I vet, a past body-guard to two Massachusetts governors, a former boxing champion of the 135 pounders, Sullivan, known mostly as "Fizzy," now works at Harvard as a ticket taker. I met him at the Harvard-Yale hockey game.
"I don't know where I got the name Fizzy. I've always been called that. People think it's Fitzy--you know Fitzpatrick, Fitzwilliam, Fitzgerald or something. Don't ask me how you get Fizzy out of a name like John Sullivan.
"But I'm not complaining. I like it. I've led a good life. God has been good to me. Almost 80 and I'm still lively. It's being around young people that keeps me going. I can walk just fine and sit still; standing bothers me because I have this silver plate in my leg. That's from the first war. I just enlisted. That's how I got into the war. Walked over to Boston Common and just signed up two days after war broke out. My mother didn't hear from me until a month later. I've always been like that. Pulling surprises."
Not that he likes it when other people pull them. Take Nixon for example. Fizzy does not approve of Watergate at all.
"I'll tell you something you've probably never heard before from someone my age," he says. "This country is gone. It's been going downhill, but now...well...I just hate to say what we need....but the country is gone."
Nevertheless, though his first allegiance is to the Athletic Department by his own admission, Fizzy is an American second.
He helps people when he can; he does favors for people if he thinks it is right. "Well, you have to help out all you can, and try to see that no one has to suffer," he explains.
And with this truism, Fizzy excused himself from our conversation to go wish the players luck before the game.