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Post Office Issues Stamp To Commemorate 350th

By Kristin A. Goss

It seems the Postal Service is stuck on Harvard, and starting today, Harvard will be stuck on U.S. mail.

After a year of alumni prodding and amid much fanfare, the recently retired postmaster general yesterday unveiled and dedicated a small, 56-cent commemorative crimson stamp honoring a humble, 17th-century churchman named John Harvard.

Postal officials said they do not know how many of the Harvard stamps will be printed, but they do speculate that because of the unusual denomination, the stamps--designed for 3-oz. first-class mail--will be around to collect for a while to come.

The stamp's arrival today in post offices nationwide followed more than a year of intense lobbying by at least one U.S. senator, Harvard Clubs from New York to Orange County, Calif., and scattered philatelically inclined alumni nationwide. The groups had to circumvent a 1971 U.S. Postal Service rule prohibiting stamps honoring colleges and universities.

The Harvard effort, spearheaded by attorney Peter L. Malkin '55 and Sen. Lowell M. Weicker (R-Conn.), got around the restriction by securing Harvard the man, not Harvard the college, the 33rd slot in the Great Americanstamp series. As such, the teaching elder whobequeathed his library and 800 English pounds tothe first American college will join the likes ofthe late Supreme Court Justice Hugo L. Black,attorney William Jennings Bryan, poet T.S. Eliot'04, jazz great Duke Ellington, and writer JackLondon on the top right corner of America'senvelopes.

"I don't think the postal service has everissued a stamp honoring someone about whom solittle is known," joked President Derek C. Bok ata press conference at the Kennedy School'sInstitute of Politics Forum yesterday.

When asked after dedicating the stamp yesterdaywhether anyone had come out in opposition to idea,former U.S. Postmaster General Albert V. Casey '43said, "Oh, sure. They had to all get in line."

In November 1985, the Citizens' Stamp AdvisoryCommittee, which designates new commemorativeissues, denied a proposal to honor Harvard's 350thanniversary on the basis of the 1971 ruling, whichsought to prevent a flood of requests by collegesfor such an honor. After considerable prodding anda barrage of letters, however, the committee,which approves only 40 to 60 of the 4000 stampsuggestions it receives annually, agreed thathonoring John Harvard himself would not beinappropriate.

Before the 1971 ruling, the postal serviceissued stamps honoring Columbia and PrincetonUniversities and Dartmouth College. But postalofficials concede that today other such schoolswould be unlikely to maneuver around therestrictions as Harvard, resting on itssignificance as the nation's oldest college, hassucceeded in doing.

John Harvard's "graven image will make thePostal Service more viable--for sellingcollector's stamps is akin to forgotten traveler'schecks and unused airplane tickets--as costsnormally associated with such product sales arenot incurred," Casey said in a dedication speechthat elicited a steady stream of laughter from thepacked forum audience.

The stamp was designed by Lexington artistRobert Anderson who based his design on the Yardstatue of John Harvard, the so-called "Statue ofthe Three Lies." One of those lies is JohnHarvard's bronze face, which, it is popularlyrumored, bears no likeness to the benefactor'sactual demeanor.

Fifty years ago, Harvard was commemorated in asimilar, though indirect way, when a stampfeaturing then-President Charles W. Eliot (Classof 1853) was issued. In 1936, President FranklinDelano Roosevelt '04 blocked a move to issue aHarvard stamp out of fear he might be accused offavoring his alma mater.CrimsonHector I. OsarioFormer Postmaster General ALBERT V. CASEY'43, President DEREK C. BOK and Kennedy SchoolDean GRAHAM T. ALLISON '62

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