Not many years ago any suggestion that a university should take more than a passing interest in what was going on outside its cloister would not have been received with any great degree of warmth. It was this scholastic attitude that made the college man the butt of ridicule for every journalist and humorist of the country, who sarcastically called attention to the essential impracticability of a college education.
That this opinion is no longer tenable is shown by the fact that the most hard-headed business men of the country, such as Frank A. Vanderlip and J. P. Morgan, have given large contributions to a committee in the University, not from altruistic motives, but in the belief that its work will benefit business conditions in general, and their concerns in particular.
The activities of this committee, the Committee on Economic Research, are gratifying evidence that Harvard does now take an active part in the business of the nation; however secondary such work may be to the primary task of a university to educate. It indicates a new conception of the function of the university which has come into greater and greater prominence this century.
This conception of Harvard as a great center of learning where the leaders of the nation--scientific, industrial and political--may at any time find valuable assistance from trained men, is at once pleasing, and appealing to the imagination. The Law School, the Medical School and the Business School all hold such a position now. To extend this policy to other departments in the same way that it has been applied in the Department of Economics would make Harvard a leader and an authority in every branch of learning, a center where those who wish scientific application of knowledge may appeal. This ideal is still far out of reach, but the Endowment Fund will help in its attainment. The fulfilment of it will add to the greatness of Harvard in two ways: it will make her program of education even more respected, and it will enable her sons, more effectively trained, to play a still more important part in the affairs of the world.