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This is the first of two articles intended as an explanation of the purposes of the 300th Anniversary Fund announced yesterday by President Conant.
The general purpose of the 300th Anniversary Fund is to strengthen the intellectual and spiritual life and increase the usefulness of the University, first, by the creation of a number of new professorships to be known as "University Professorships"; and second, by the establishment of new "Harvard National Scholarships."
Certain great universities of the western world are older than any of the world's existing governments. The secret of their unfailing vitality is that they attract to themselves and again send forth into the community men who care about ideas and ideals. They are the special guardians of the nation's cultural heritage. They are the places to which the intellectual leadership of a democracy must always resort for inspiration and training. They are centers of intellectual independence and progress, radiating a profound and immeasurable influence on the character and development of the nation.
This influence is magnified many times when great scholars and teachers find in a university the environment and opportunities favorable to the full exercise of their talents.
All Must Take Part
All our universities must take part in the effort to extend knowledge and in the work of preparing young men to meet the problems of their day. But during the years to come, it is possible that universities which have a maximum degree of independence from governmental support will fulfill a role of special significance in the maintenance of intellectual freedom.
An underlying purpose of the 300th Anniversary Fund is to fortify the University as a whole in contrast to its separate parts of departments. A university is an institution animated by the idea that, while the division of knowledge, the distinctions among schools, the concentration upon teaching or investigation, the separation of the arts and the sciences, of the profession and the liberal studies, are convenient, they are merely provisional and in some measure artificial.
Education An Association
Knowledge advances by crossing the conventional frontiers between subjects because education is not only discipline and information but an association with many men who are the masters of knowledge in various fields.
It is the belief of the Harvard authorities that the development of the schools and departments has reached a point where the next advance can best be made by devoting new resources to activities which, worth while in themselves, will also be helpful to the whole by bridging the intervals between specialized subjects and promoting union between separated activities.
The University Professorships
In the light of the above considerations, Harvard proposes to create a new sort of professorship which shall not be attached narrowly or finally to any particular department. Departmental work is to go on as before, since it will be as necessary and important as ever. But it is proposed that these new chairs shall be endowed under terms of gift that will not rivet them immovably in one spot on the map of the field of learning. When this is done, it will be possible to fit a chair to a man, instead of squeezing a man into a fixed chair in a designated and perhaps too narrow subject. It is proposed to reserve these new chairs for men who are working on the frontiers of knowledge, and in such a way that they cross the conventional boundaries of the specialties. As above stated, the Harvard authorities are impressed by the realization that all subjects which are intensively studied lead into other subjects; that from law, for example, some men must follow a path that leads into history, some a path that leads into economics, some a path that leads into business administration. They propose, therefore, that the search for truth and the scope of the professor's interests, rather than the traditional division of subjects, shall determine where the holders of University Professorships are to work. It is expected that these chairs will be occupied by men who are either already highly distinguished or who give promise of becoming so. There are many men on our present faculties who might occupy the proposed chairs.
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