Family and friends of Samuel H. Beer, a former Harvard professor of government who passed away in April, gathered last Friday to celebrate his life during a service at the Memorial Church.
Reverend Professor Peter J. Gomes officiated the service, and the event included speeches by colleagues and students who had worked closely with Beer throughout his time at the University.
All of the eulogies emphasized a common theme: not only was Beer an accomplished academic, but he also cared about the people who he collaborated with.
“We remember not only what he did, but also who he was and what he represented to the rest of us,” Gomes said. “He took us seriously, but not himself too seriously—a rare and precious quality for a Harvard professor.”
Following a hymn at the beginning of the service, Harvey C. Mansfield ’53, who first took a course with Beer as sophomore at the College, recalled the first time that the two met.Mansfield remembered Beer as a professor who taught with passion and “made his points with fists rather than with fingers.”
Former colleagues also praised Beer’s ability to engage students with the course materials. Melvin Richter ’43, who served as a teaching fellow in one of Beer’s famous courses, Social Sciences 2, said that the course was of a “strikingly original format” in which Beer would evaluate two opposing theories for each of the six political events addressed in the course.
Richter added that Beer was “a quite wonderful and irreplaceable man who enriched the lives of those who were lucky enough to know him.”Other speakers remembered Beer’s experiences before he came to Harvard.
Government Professor Peter A. Hall recalled that before entering the world of academia, Beer was a decorated veteran of World War II. Beer landed at Normandy five days after D-Day and was awarded a Bronze Star for fighting in close proximity to enemy lines.
Hall said that Beer was a man who “cared just as much about that sophomore who walked through that wooden door in that basement office in Littauer” as he did about prime ministers, senators, and diplomats.
“What is most remarkable about Sam Beer is the example he set for us as a person,” Hall said.