“[They] looked askance at me because I had gone to Harvard,” he says.
By 1953, Harvard had come to be known as the Kremlin on the Charles. Letters to The Crimson accused the University of being a center of communist indoctrination. Sensationalist headlines in major newspapers and small-town dailies lambasted Harvard for harboring “Red” faculty members.
In a time when Cold War tensions were approaching their pinnacle and Sen. Joseph McCarthy, R-Wis., had initiated a vigilant effort to weed out communist sympathizers from every crevice of society, a degree from the nation’s oldest university was cause for extra suspicion.
“‘Our American schools’ were hotbeds of Communist infiltration, it was claimed,” the Class of 1953 yearbook editors wrote in a retrospective of their senior year. “And, as usual, Harvard was among the hottest beds.”
The fear of Harvard as a communist threat was played out on the national stage in the spring of 1953 when Congress interrogated Harvard physics professor Wendell H. Furry about his alleged communist associations.
The investigation—which extended to two other Harvard faculty members—became the landmark case for government attempts to root out subversion in American education.