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The History of Harvard's Commencement, Explained
When President Conant commented on the growth of the University's endowment fund for athletics in his address to the Varsity Club last Friday night he extended and developed the line of thought that has dominated the athletic program for the past few years. For in 1935, when it became apparent how far the H.A.A. had gone off the gold standard since the flush days of the Republican era of the twenties, drastic cuts in the athletic budget made it clear that sooner or later the University would have to shoulder the responsibility for its athletic program, as well as its direction and control. And the traditional way for the University to look after its activities is through endowments.
Now that the endowment fund has grown to a figure approaching $200,000 through moneys set aside for the purpose by the Corporation and also through private contributions, the athletic fund stands side by side with the other important contributions of the Conant regime, namely the National scholarships and the University professorships. For as these funds are designed to bolster the professorial and undergraduate ranks to their utmost efficiency in the strictly academic branches of the University, so the endowment fund for athletics must be aimed at giving "the same basis of security" to athletics "as the instruction and research carried on by the faculties, museums, and research institutions." Though this objective may seem far distant and almost unattainable, in view of the relative smallness of the fund as it stands, and also because it is hard to envisage a day when athletics can be so well fed by endowment moneys as to turn down the rewards of gate receipts entirely, it is a vital objective because it implies that athletics are just as much of a part of training at Harvard as classes and libraries.
With this in mind the picture of Harvard in the years hence is pleasing to consider, for with intra-mural and intercollegiate sports alike looking to the University for support and direction, and with the academic garden flowering with endowments to attract to the University leading men in the educational field, both professors and students, Harvard should be an even more well rounded institution than it is today. But in the meantime it is to be hoped that the athletic endowment continues to grow, and President Conant has contributed to that end by putting the need for athletic endowment on a plane with the other needs of the University.
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