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The History of Harvard's Commencement, Explained
For the first time since the foundation of the University the Freshman class contains a student with the family name of Harvard. Although not a direct descendant of John Harvard, he is presumably descended from Thomas, second cousin of John Harvard. Moreover, Lionel Harvard, of the present Freshman class, prepared for College at the same school in London at which John Harvard prepared for Emmanuel College, Cambridge, three hundred years ago.
The story of how the young man happened to come to Harvard is one of exceptional interest to Harvard men. It began in a letter written in 1847 by Edward Everett, then President of the University, to George Bancroft who was at his post as minister to Great Britain, a post which President Everett himself had previously filled. In that letter President Everett asked Mr. Bancroft to deliver some books--including a set of Quincy's "History of Harvard"--to Rev. John Harvard of Plymouth, England, whom President Everett spoke of as "a Wesleyan clergyman whose ancestor at the beginning of the seventeenth century was a brother of our founder." It may be remarked in passing that the commission was faithfully executed, and the books are still in the possession of the family of which Lionel Harvard is a member.
A few years ago M. A. DeWolfe Howe of Boston found the letter in some old files while he was preparing for publication "The Life and Letters of George Bancroft." An opportunity to make inquiries suggested by the letter presented itself in 1908 when Mr. Howe's friend, Louis A. Holman of Boston, went to England for several months of work involving antiquarion and other research. In Plymouth Mr. Holman could get little information about Rev. John Harvard who preached there sixty years before, but he finally learned of two sons, Rev. John C. Harvard of Sheffield, who had died in 1907, and J. Mawson Harvard of London. Mr. Holman was soon in correspondence with the latter gentleman, and a little later visited him. From him Mr. Holman obtained much valuable genealogical date which was embodied upon his return in an article upon "Living Harvards and Their Family Records," which appeared in the Harvard Graduates' Magazine of June, 1910. At the home of J. Mawson Harvard he found two sons, Lionel, now eighteen, and Kenneth, now fourteen. An older son, John had died.
A little inquiry by Mr. Holman of those in authority and among a few alumni resulted in the prompt and cordial assurance that a few interested graduates would provide a fund ample to care for the tuition and expenses of the young man during his four years' course.
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