Mather: Not Just For Jocks

TOURING THE HOUSES Fifth in a continuing series on House life.

For many Harvard students, the mention of Mather House evokes a standard set of images: crowded parties, a dining hall decorated by baseball caps, two men for every woman.

Not many students think of Mather as the home of Harvard's Society of Nerds and Geeks.

Yet what seems an anomaly in a place known as the "jock house" points to a house life more diverse than often assumed.

"There are a lot of different kinds of people in the house," says former House Committee Chair Michelle M. Shih '93.

"You can definitely stereotype Mather if you want to, but if you stereotype it you're going to miss a lot," she says.

"You have to peel back the layers a little bit," agrees House Committee Chair Michael A. Jobst '94.

Jobst points to Mather's strong community service involvement, from Citystep to the Harvard Neighborhood Development program, as evidence of a more multi-faceted house.

"Community service is probably the huge thing in this house, but it's not something that gets mentioned a lot," he says.

Mather House Master Sandra Naddaff, senior lecturer on literature, also emphasizes the variety of interests in the house.

"This seems to be a house in which there's a tremendous amount of musical talent," Naddaff says, noting that Mather also boasts pottery facilities and a drawing studio.

Naddaff and her husband Leigh, a business school professor, took over as Master and comaster in February from Jeff and Nancy Williamson, and it remains to be seen how the new masters will influence the direction of the life of the house.

Still, most students say the stereotype, though limiting, does have basis in the house population--45 percent athletes.

Jobst estimates that Mather is home to two-thirds of the football team and a majority of the baseball team.

"Like any stereotype, there's some truth to it," Naddaff says. "We do have a lot of athletes in the house. It's always one group that gives a house its stereotype."

Perhaps the greatest--and most undeniable--categorization of Mather concerns is its male-to-female ratio of over two to one.