Staying for More Than 50 Years


In 1946, having just been discharged from the military, Roger D. Fisher '43 returned to Harvard Yard and marched straight to University Hall.

Fisher, a student at Harvard during World War II, had come back to find official records of his graduation from the College.

"Did you ever get a diploma?" the woman at the reception desk asked him.


"Then you didn't graduate," she replied. She began to rummage through some papers.


"Wait a minute, what's your name? Fisher?" she asked, as she emerged carrying a dusty envelope.

Fisher had apparently not prepaid the postage correctly, so Harvard had not sent records of his graduation to him at his Army barracks. He finally received his diploma in University Hall in 1946, three years after completing his time at the College.

Fisher is now Williston professor of law emeritus, a pioneer in the field of negotiation, a legend at the Law School, and one of the several members of the class of 1943 who came back to teach at the University after graduating.

His experiences at Harvard, like those of most of his classmates, were largely shaped by the reality of war in the outside world. And as a professor here since 1956, he has witnessed great change at the University, both at the College and at the Law School, which he attended between 1946 and 1948.

"When I was there, the Law School was 100 percent male, now it's 40 percent female. It was about 97 percent white," he says. "We all wore coats and ties to class."

Frankfurter Professor of Law Abram Chayes '43 says, "We were quite a prissy lot...These days diversity is enormously enhanced."

Story Professor of Law Arthur T. von Mehren '43 says today's student body is more homogeneous in terms of intellectual ability.

Von Mehren says two distinct groups of students existed at the College in his time: one which came for the academics, and others "that were here primarily for family reasons." But today, he says, the groups have largely merged into one.

But while the student body that throngs to Harvard Square has changed, the geography remains the same. Superficially, things look different. In 1943, "there weren't as many street musicians" says Chayes. "And of course, there weren't the homeless--or twelve-year-old people with mohawks."

Yet Chayes says Harvard's environs have always been a "boiling vortex of activity, with young people predominant."