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The History of Harvard's Commencement, Explained

1974: Who is President Derek C. Bok?

Taurus and Tealeaves



Derek C. Bok announces that after 30 months in office, he has finally determined that he is not Nathan Pusey. "I've had a committee study this thing since my first day in Mass Hall," Bok reports, "and I've also looked at the name on my bursar's card. I am definitely not Nathan Pusey, although I may indeed by Jordan Marsh."

William H. Bossert, McKay Professor of Applied Mathematics, alleges that administrative wonder Stephen S.J. Hall is, in fact, only a computer. In an angry letter to Harvard Magazine, Hall replies: "DO STEP 9.1. END OF PROGRAM. STOP. END OF JOB."

A notice in The Harvard Gazette reveals that the comet Kohoutek will be this spring's Norton Lecturer on Poetry. The comet will deliver six talks on "The Unasked Question," accompanied by a series of films on people around the world not asking "Who is Guru Maharaj Ji?"


David L. Halberstam '55 comes to Cambridge to push his new best-seller, a study of the relevance of mammary glands to the development of American conservative thought, entitled The Breast and the Rightist.

Temperatures during the first week of February (which, before Harvard changed its calender, would have been inter-session) drop to a record 67 degrees below zero. In protest, 300 glassy-eyed students angrily burn Adams House, the School of Design, and the office of The Harvard Independent. Luckily, no one is injured when the surprising drop in temperature cracks the epoxy holding the Science Center together, reducing the complex to a heap of stone and glass rubble.

William Shockley, inventor of the transistor and would-be geneticist, claims to have discovered that "the world spins on a teensy, weensy electric motor." "Sure, I'm saying this partly for shock value," Shockley says, "but, gosh, how else do you explain a play title like Stop the World, I Want to Get Off, or a movie like The Day the Earth Stood Still?"


The Harvard Law School Forum, promising "never to shirk or abdicate our vital and crucial responsibility to offer a place where even the most unusual and controversial of people and speakers can be seen and listened to at this great and prestigious law school and University," invites Thomas Stefanian, Cambridge restauranteur, to debate City Councillor Alfred E. Vellucci on "By-zantine Hagiography: A Message for Our Times?"

President Bok announces that after 32 months in office, he has finally determined that he is not Richard J. Herrnstein, professor of Psychology. "But I don't think my record and my conscience can be fully clear," Bok adds, "until I manifest my willingness to entertain George Wald's identity compatible with my usual personality."

The Committee on Houses and Undergraduate Life decides not to vote on whether either the committee or its members actually exist. "We assured CHUL that it absolutely is not an issue now whether the committee exist or not. The members were satisfied to wait until it mattered to someone--anyone--before discussing it," Dean Rosovsky reports.

Bok announces that the new Harvard yard dorm will be named Stephen S.J. Hall in honor of W.E.B. DuBois. "Mr. DuBois was a modest man," Bok explains.


A committee headed by Krister Stendahl, dean of the Divinity School, recommends that the University demonstrate its support for third-world religion by appointing the Rev. Sun Myung Moon to be preacher to the University. The report also recommends shortening Passover to one day to be celebrated on Easter Sunday.

A memo from the office of Stephen S.J. Hall, vice president for administration, announces that Harvard secretaries may breathe during office hours. "Breathing," Hall says," "is the kind of privilege that in the long run makes people more efficient."

Under the CHUL's new guidelines for assigning freshmen to Houses, 344 freshmen are assigned to live at the bottom of Muddy Pond, and the computer revokes the admission of students from Alameda, Calif. and all of New Jersey. "Next year, we'll try a slightly different system," F. Skiddy von Stade '38, dean of freshmen, announces; "We shall assign freshmen according to their ability to play polo, their lack of resemblance to women, and their likelihood to become rich alumni."

Martin L. Kilson, professor of Government, complains to the Committee on Rights and Responsibilities that the Harvard University Press is violating his "scholarly rights under Article XXXIV of the Constitution" by refusing to publish his 1000-page volume Letter to The Crimson.


Tricia Nixon Cox returns to Cambridge to push her first best-seller, the story of her mother's first night in the White House, entitled The Making of the President 1969.

The Crimson reports that Stephen S.J. Hall, asked by a reporter if he is, in fact, a computer, replied, "No comment." In a angry letter to The Crimson, Hall declares: "DO STEP 5.2. I HAVE BEEN MISQQQUOTED. THIS IS OFF THE REKORD. THIS IS NOT FOR PUBLICATION. I AM CANCELING MY SUBSCRIPTION. I AM NOT A COMPUTER. I AM TURNING OFF YOUR HEAT. NO COMMENT. END OF PROGRAM. STOPP."

The Advisory Committee on Shareholder Responsibility decides not to vote on calling its first meeting of the year to order. "This early in the game, while our jurisdiction is still unclear, we thought a memo advising ourselves to come to order would be more appropriate," Stanley S. Surrey, professor of Law and ASCR chairman, says.

Elliot L. Richardson '41, in a speech to the Law School faculty, quotes President Nixon's first reaction to the subpoenas for presidential tapes: "Boy, would I like to lay my hands on Cox!" The Harvard Advocate published its January issue.


Professors Oscar Handlin and Donald Fleming sign a petition insisting that Derek Bok is, in fact, neither of them. "Whoever he is, he is a gosh-darned prudent administrator," Fleming says, "but whoever Derek C. Bok may be, he is certainly not one of us."

Tenessee Williams offers the Commencement Day address after the Class of '74's first choice, Soupy Sales, declines to attend the ceremonies. Despite a year of speculation, Cambodian dictator Lon Nol again does not receive an honorary degree from Harvard. Instead, the University honors "three men whose service to the cause of peace and justice is legend": Spain's Generalissimo Franco, President Juan Peron of Argentina, and Urguay's up-and-coming fascist, Juan Bordaberry.

President Bok tells alumni that he is "inclined to agree" with complaints that allowing women to eat in the Freshman Union was a "politically expedient decision not in keeping with our usual pure-as-the-driven-snow objectivity." "I am speaking only as a private individual," Bok says, "but if I, as president, can ramrod through a new policy, I, as a private citizen, will do that."


The Harvard Lampoon published its January issue. David Halberstam returns to Cambridge to push his latest best-seller, a searching reexamination of the importance of fluoride tooth-pastes for clean teeth, entitled The Crest and the Whitest.

Hale Champion, vice president for finance, announces that Harvard will take special precautions to avoid financial losses in fiscal 1975. "We are going to calculate tuition as though the total cost of undergraduate education were being split by only 400 people, sell Black Rock Forest to Sack Theaters as a game preserve, and replace bottomless tubs with showers which will share their bottoms on Saturdays," Champion explains.

President Gerald Ford, in his first address to the nation, announces that he is not President Bok. "I've never even been dean of a law school," Ford quips.

Stephen S.J. Hall, tired of student jokes that because of his preoccupation with automation and efficiency he may only be a computer, ends his career by short-circuiting two wires in his forehead.


Passing over three well-known Marxist economists, including two black women, the Economics Department grants tenure to the Guru Maharaj Ji. Department Chairman James S. Duesenberry announces that the Guru will teach Economics 1010c, "Microeconomics and Macrobiotics," and Social Sciences 96ts, "Who Is Guru Maharaj Ji?"

Former New York Gov. Nelson A. Rockefeller announces that as a public service to the nation, he is organizing a National Commission to Make Me President If I Decide I Want to Run. Rockefeller also declares that Standard Oil will boycott the United States. Japan, Western Europe, and Harvard if President Ford fails to offer him a cabinet position.

President Bok announces that "in keeping with Harvard's long-standing sensitive commitment to Afro-American scholarship." he has requested that Lamont Library order three new copies of Up from Slavery and asked W. Burriss Young, associate dean of freshmen, to organize an Amos 'n Andy film festival in the Straus Common Room.

Construction begins again on the Nathan Marsh Pusey Library after a Buildings and Grounds maintenance man discovers that the floors underground have been installed upside down. "They told me to walk down three flights to clean the skylight on the floor!" the workman reports.


The English Department appoints Julia Child its guest lecturer for the fall to teach a course on St. Augustine's Confections, Virginia Woolf's Legume of One's Own, and The Bread Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway.

Walter J. Leonard, special assistant to the president, announces a new "open hiring plan" under Harvard's affirmative action program. "We will hire any woman who applies as long as she is a man," Leonard reports.

Four hundred and twenty biology majors enroll in Guru Maharaj Ji's Soc Sci course after "Required for premies" is misprinted in the catalogue as, "Required for premeds."

The Overseers announce that in honor of his first ten years in the administration, Archie C. Epps III, dean of students, will finally be permitted to make a decision.

David Halberstam returns to Cambridge to push his latest best-seller, a new way to determine if you have lung cancer or cataracts, entitled The Chest and the Eye Test.


Burglars enter the home of Robert Tonis, chief of Harvard police, while the chief is leading a sensitivity session for rookie policemen. In hopes of updating its image, Harvard Magazine is changing its name to My Weekly Reader, John T. Bethell, editor of the magazine, announces.

Former President Richard M. Nixon, sentenced to 55 years in prison for conspiracy to commit burglary, income tax evasion, obstruction of justice, and contempt of Congress, tells an anxious nation how he plans to spend his time in jail. "I really don't know. Maybe I'll smoke a little dope, listen to some Allman Brothers, read Kahlil Gibran," the ex-president muses.

Dr. Dana L. Farnsworth, director of University Health Services, announces that in order to speed up service UHS will give band-aids and aspirin to all students who present five sworn affidavits testifying to their strength of character and steadfastness of purpose.

For Halloween, Derek Bok dresses up as Henry A. Kissinger '50, former professor of Government, and goes trick-or-treating to the home to John T. Dunlop, for dean of the Faculty. "Is this who I am?" Bok asks the bemused Dunlop.


In keeping with a Faculty Council recommendation, President Bok announces that Harvard Yard will be turned into an additional House and that the separate freshman year will be abolished. Bok appoints Guru Maharaj Ji to be House master. "We think he'll be a perfect master," Bok says.

Edward J. Samp, Cambridge election commissioner, announces that only those students may register to vote who own 1943 Studebakers with Massachusetts license plates. "They're great cars," Samp explains, "and I think Massachusetts plates would prove a kid really cares about this city."

Previously undefeated Harvard loses to Yale in a 3-0 upset after Harvard's team bus mistakenly leaves the football team at Dartmouth stadium: Yale scores its one field goal late in the third quarter.

Daniel Steiner '54, general counsel to the University, announces that to celebrate his first three years in office, he will state an opinion that "other English-speaking people can understand." "I think it's the least, and yes, I do, you know, let me add that after careful study, it could be, but then again, I will, and I never have," Steiner tells a press conference.


Dean Rosovsky warms students to prepare for the winter's oil shortage. "We plan to lengthen winter recess four months and extend the school year until October. Seniors will have the option of finishing their studies or not," Rosovsky says. "Under our Optional Graduation Plan, seniors with prior commitments for next fall may send in the appropriate matchbook cover for our Harvard-at-Home Handy Study Course."

Robert J. Kiely, professor of English, Master of Adams House, chairman of the Committees on General Education and on Undergraduate Education, and associate dean of the Faculty, is appointed to chair a University-wide committee on the decentralization of decision-making at Harvard.

David Halberstam comes to Cambridge to push his latest best-seller, a history of the influence squatters exerted on the settlement of California by refusing to spend money, entitled The West and the Tightest.

Derek Bok, after another year's discouraging identity crisis, tries in vain to resign his presidency. "Honestly, I had my letter all typed up," Bok tells The Crimson; "I just didn't' know whose name to put at the bottom."

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