Though he would become a household name in holistic medicine, during his time at the College, Dr. Andrew T. Weil ’63-’64, like many of his peers, was still deciding between concentrations. He would go on to graduate from Harvard Medical School, but as a first-year student he admitted he “had no idea” what he wanted to do with himself.
While Weil thought he might be a writer or a journalist, he changed his concentration from psychology to linguistics before finally settling on biology with a focus on botany.
“He looked like a doctor then,” said Hendrik Hertzberg ’65, Weil’s Lowell roommate and former managing editor of The Crimson.
Hertzberg described Weil as having been portly and balding early, but as looking the same now as he did then, save for the beard. “When he put a white coat on, he...could wander freely through any hospital,” Hertzberg said.
However, Weil’s successful career in promoting integrative medicine, a field he helped found, would come later. At the College, Weil enjoyed the camaraderie, creativity, and hijinks of extracurricular activity.
Beyond his academic interests, Weil was well-known among classmates for his sense of humor and practical jokes.
While already an editor for The Crimson, Weil joined the Harvard Lampoon, a semi-secret Sorrento Square social organization that used to occasionally publish a so-called humor magazine. Holding positions on both publications proved to be “fun and a bit tricky,” according to Weil.
“Andy was a wizard and a trickster and he essentially convinced both The Crimson and the Lampoon that he was a double agent for the other side,” Hertzberg said.
According to Hertzberg, Weil orchestrated the theft of the Lampoon’s rooftop ibis statue. He went so far as to publish a series of stories about the ibis statue’s travels around the globe, which ran on the frontpage of The Crimson. The series was printed along with photos that had in fact been staged in front of large posters of the exotic locations, which ranged from Japan to Switzerland.
In another elaborate prank, in his dorm in Claverly Hall, Weil rigged a radio to play classical music and then suddenly cut to an announcement of imminent nuclear war.
“I remember that the then-managing editor of The Crimson immediately called into the The Crimson and started yelling, and one of the richer boys immediately called his family who arranged a private jet to take him to the fallout structure that they had built in the North,” Hertzberg recalled.
Weil’s sense of humor fit in with other members of the Lampoon during his time who went on to expand their comic brand outside of Harvard.