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The History of Harvard's Commencement, Explained
"No one has an absolute right to go to Harvard." The self satisfied intellectually stimulated student who is enjoying Harvard superiority or the timid and aspiring candidate for admission who anticipates the magnificence of the University has no absolute claim to membership in the college.
Such is the firm belief of George D. Markham '81, one of the most prominent Harvard men in the Middle West and one who has played an instrumental part in the affairs of the University since his graduation over a half a century ago. He declares that the welfare of the College is of paramount importance and that the desires of the students must be subjugated to the needs of the college.
Today Markham evinces as active an interest and is as fell versed in undergraduate activities and the problems of the administration as he was in 1907 when he was elected an overseer of the University. He served as an overseer for six years and during that time became a close friend of President Lowell.
Mr. Markham was among those who conceived the idea of the associated alumni clubs and offered the impetus for the founding of the second alumni club (St. Louis, Missouri). He has been a commanding influence in many activities of the University and was among the founders of the business school.
Continuing his commentary of contemporary problems of the University he said, "I would emphasize Spanish." Though he sets a high valuation on the knowledge of Latin, Mr. Markham advocates making the Latin requirement optional and placing more importance on the modern languages. Pointing out that English serves as an international language in most continental affairs, he stressed the need for a knowledge of Spanish: "It is in Mexico and South America that our bread is buttered."
Having attended the University at a time when the elective system was in its first riotous stages of freedom and liberalism, he ardently defended the system of concentration and distribution requirements, saying: "We must arouse an educational appetite as well as sharpen the tools which we are to use."
When questioned concerning the custom of giving preference to men coming from more remote districts over those living near the University, he again stressed his original statement, "No one has an absolute right to go to Harvard." any tendency towards localism must be destroyed, he continued. Selections are based on the welfare of the University. In connection with this system he supported President Conant's plan of giving scholarships to men from all over the country, stating that "Only the best should be admitted."
"Let them talk," he said concerning the question of radical movements within the University. "Repression would aid their cause. Harvard students are sensible enough." He opposed repression as contrary to the University's tradition of free speech and thought. "One of the traditions of Harvard is to see a little further ahead, to see a little deeper in."
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