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The History of Harvard's Commencement, Explained

Jonathan Grandine 1946-1980

NO WRITER ATTRIBUTED

JONATHAN GRANDINE'S death last Friday at the age of 33 deprived the University of a thoughtful scholar and students of a dynamic teacher. In the years before his illness Grandine taught both Shakespeare and epic poetry with a quiet intensity, able with acumen and dry with to expose the heart of the most difficult works. His lectures were models of directed intelligence; as he led students through Virgil, Spenser, Milton and Blake, he avoided the twin perils of near-sighted textual analysis and bland generality, and presented the poets as men whose ideas could instruct us or help us make sense of our own lives.

Grandine's decision to abandon his academic career for law school reflected a dilemma, present in many of the works he taught, that confronted him personally: whether the withdrawn academic life could be creative as well. Soon after he made this choice, he learned of the severity of his cancer, and remained at Harvard to teach intermittently. He faced his more than two years of illness with maturity and understanding.

After Grandine's final lecture in his epic course two years ago, the hall rose to an emotional standing ovation. Grandine modestly exited through the back, but his students continued applauding for minutes to the empty podium. We add our hands to that tribute.

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