CHARLESTOWN--It was 350 years ago today that the general court of Massachusetts voted to approve the establishment of a small college in "New Towne" Mass., and the minister of what was then the United Church of Christ was quite intrigued by the idea.
So intrigued that he decided to bequest half of his wills and 400 pounds to the workings of this institute of higher education located a brisk half hour horse ride from his parish, now known as the First Church of Charlestown.
And it was on a wind-swept hillside designated as the former minister's grave that a representative of the state yesterday joined about 15 students, the dean of students and members of the First Church to commemorate the founding of the school and English minister who established it, both named Harvard.
The group gathered to pay homage at the Charlestown cemetery which contains a monument to John Harvard, not his actual grave. The founder of Harvard is actually buried at Towne Hall, but in the early nineteenth century a group of Harvard alumni dedicated a memorial to him on the hill facing his church.
Yesterday, the monument was good enough for the small group which gathered around the approximately 16-foot structure bearing a plaque with the word "HARVARD" etched on it.
Governor Michael S. Dukakis' personal secretary Nicholas Metropolis read a proclamation from the governor praising Harvard and the "fruits" of the College. Metropolis then presented Dean of Students Archie C. Epps III with a commendation for the College.
In response to the governor's proclamation, Epps spoke on the legacy that John Harvard left the College. "What can we give back to the College, in return for all that she has given to us when we were here and continues to give, even when the 'bloom of fresh excitement shall have passed?'''
"If she gives us nothing else, it will perhaps be the memory of John Harvard's example," the dean continued.
Like the English minister, early Harvard graduates were taught to seek "the preservation of a more perfect polity," Epps said. "These early graduates pursued the highest ideals. Pursuit of high standards of this kind certainly survives in the life of the college today."
Epps presented the church with a Wedgewood plate bearing a scene of Harvard and a $500 check to show the College's long-standing relationship with the Church.
Representing John Harvard's church, Victor Ford, the current minister of the church, addressed the gathering after Epps had made his remarks. Ford said that when he entered the Boston Latin School in 1943, he was taught that the parents of the school's first high school students in 1635 needed a place to send their seniors.
"So that's why, in 1635, Harvard was founded,"he joked.
In appreciation of the College's gift, theChurch presented Harvard with a book on its354-year history and commemorative paper weightsfrom the Church's own 350th celebration four yearsago.
At the conclusion of the ceremony, Cristina V.Coletta '87, co-chairman of the 350th committeeand John Bender '89, a member of the committee,placed a wreath at the foot of the monument toJohn Harvard