A Centennial Bell, a half-size replica bell, and bell-shaped cookies rang in concert yesterday at the Business School’s Baker Library.
The library’s belltower became home to the first of 18 new bells being delivered from Russia to Harvard, with the rest slated to be installed in Lowell House next summer. The new set is coming to Cambridge in exchange for Harvard’s historic bells from Danilov Monastery in Moscow, which an American industrialist purchased from Josef Stalin’s Soviet Union and gave to the University in 1930.
When the bells arrived over 70 years ago, 17 of them went to Lowell House. But one was sent across the Charles River after a bell expert determined that two of them were too close in tone to be sounded at the same time.
Yesterday’s ceremony marked another chapter in the decades-long saga to send the bells home and to commission and cast replacements for Harvard. The Business School’s new bell, which was dubbed the Centennial Bell in honor of the school’s 100th anniversary next year, rang in its new home for the first time. A half-size replica of the bell was simultaneously unveiled on the lawn in front of the library.
The new bell is engraved with illustrations of the Baker Library and Danilov Monastery as well as the Harvard and Business School shields. The words “Leadership, Excellence, Integrity,” and the years of the Business School’s existence, “1908-2008,” are inscribed on its surface.
“The new bell...will have special significance for this community,” Business School Dean Jay O. Light said.
Lowell House Master Diana L. Eck detailed the history of the bells’ presence at Harvard and the prolonged efforts to return them to their original home.
“Though we had been stewards, in a sense, of these bells for seven decades, we realized we had no idea how to ring them properly,” Eck said. “In Russia, they were and are a national treasure.”
A Russian Business School student, Konstantin V. Kuzovkov, also spoke at the event. He recalled walking near the Danilov Monastery in 2005 and seeing a poster of Baker Library just as he was finishing up his application to the school.
“The whole project itself is a great example of modern leadership,” Kuzovkov said, referring to the collaboration of people from a range of different backgrounds. “This is how I believe the world is going to evolve pretty soon.”
Over 200 people attended the event. They were treated to an autumn-themed reception following the formal ceremony and unveiling, complete with gold, bell-shaped cookies that covered with icing spelling out “HBS 1908-2008.”
Harvard’s 17 other Danilov bells will remain in Lowell House until Commencement in June, when they will sound for the last time before returning to Moscow and being replaced with the new bells. Harvard’s new set was sanctified by the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church at a lavish ceremony in Moscow in July. A Russian metals tycoon, Viktor Vekselberg, reportedly paid millions of dollars to bring the bells home and cast new ones for Harvard.
—Staff writer Victoria B. Kabak can be reached at email@example.com.