“I am particularly pleased and proud to be standing here ‘in the Yard.’ I have heard a great deal about Harvard—who hasn’t?” Charles, the Prince of Wales, said in a speech in Tercentenary Theater, packed with alumni, students, faculty members, and distinguished guests. The Prince of Wales was the keynote speaker on the first of a three-day convocation celebration of Harvard’s 350th anniversary.
The anniversary received attention from some of the country’s largest newspapers, including the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times.
Indeed, even the U.S. Postal Service joined in the celebration, issuing a commemorative stamp with a drawing of John Harvard’s face etched in crimson.
The festivities, which drew 44,000 attendees, were part of one of the largest and most extravagant birthday parties the country has ever seen and brought together members of the Harvard community from the class of 1918 to the Class of 1990 and everything in between.
CRIMSON AND CHRYSANTHEMUMS
On the morning of the first day of the three-day celebration, three flags waved gallantly from University Hall: the flags of the U.S., the U.K.—in honor of Prince Charles’ keynote speech—and Harvard, with its classic Veritas insignia.
The yard had been transformed, according to James D. Solomon ’87, a Crimson editor who covered the 350th anniversary. White chrysanthemums, grown specifically for the event, covered the steps of Memorial Church and four students, two boys and two girls, had been recruited to guard them.
“It was a very serious job, guarding the mums,” recalled Justine A. Harris ’90, the only freshman of the four. “A lot of people wanted to take them, walk off with the Crimson mums.”
“But we did our job and guarded them well,” she added with a laugh.
Yellow chrysanthemums also covered the ground beneath the feet of the John Harvard statue.
In his time at the University, spanning from when he was a student in the late 1950s to the present, John P. Reardon Jr. ’60, director of the Harvard Alumni Association, said he had “never seen” such an elaborate display.
The second day of festivities was intended to close with an extravagant dinner in Memorial Hall organized for the University’s distinguished guests, including alumni, administrators, and faculty members. However, this event never came to be. A group of between 70 and 100 students, alumni, and faculty members calling for Harvard to divest from apartheid South Africa orchestrated a protest, creating a human barricade at the front of the entrance. When the event attendees were unable to pass through the line of activists, the dinner was canceled, the food donated to a nearby homeless shelter, and the already opened wine poured down the drain.
On the third and final day of the celebration, Joanne “Jody” R. Dushay ’89 acted as a standard bearer, representing her class in the Alumni Day procession. After receiving a letter in the mail asking her to be a part of the festivities, she carried a sign with her class year, 1989—one that she has kept to this day.
“When I was in that parade and holding that sign, it was very special,” Dushay said. “And I do remember seeing a woman and saying, ‘that’s very cool, she’s from the oldest class.’”
The standard bearers bore signs with graduation years dating back to World War I, with the oldest coming from the Class of 1918.