If your parents attended college, ask them to name three of their professors. Unless your folks are academics or had an illicit affair of some sort, they probably will be want to do so. My mom alludes to a pedagogue of Russian history she once knew, and my dad, particularly around reunion time, will reminisce about a prof who made him write about some guy name Nietzsche. My parents were good students who look back on their college years with fondness, but nevertheless they are unable to place names or even faces on the grey-suited men behind the lectern. I have little doubt that such mnemonic failure will eventually be my fate as well.
Already, after only a few semesters, I am unable to recall the identities of sundry section leaders and teaching fellows. And, I daresay, most of the instructors I've encountered will soon forget me. Many have done so already. Alas! How fleeting are our days here at Harvard. Sure, I'will wax romantic about the grandeur of the Yard and the vastness of Widener Library. But who will populate these wistful memories? Certainly not the administration. May be a sympathetic professor, but probably not. My classmates? A handful of close friends at most. No, the souls whom I'll remember most don't have initials after their names, but nevertheless they've made me laugh and smile more than all the others combined. It's time a few of them are recognized.
Mike McHale. Mike is co-owner of Tommy's House of Pizza, and is easily recognized with his freshly-shaven head and wire rimmed glasses. Although raised in New York, he speaks with an ever-so-slight twinge of metro Beantown. He knows his regular customers by name, and inquires of their lives. Once a college student himself, he has built his establishment around the temporal and financial, if not nutritional demands of his clientele. Caring about the needs of consumers is a novel though in both Harvard Square and Harvard University alike, and Mike Mchale is an asset to both.
Dan Gibbons. A 10-year veteran of the Adams House security force, he's hard to walk past with a mere "hello." Inevitably, a conversation will arise about almost anything: Boston politics, Harvard politics, the politics of a new stadium in Southie or the politics of a good Sox season. And the conversation will continue until you feel guilty about your productivity quotient or until he gets a call on the two-way. Dan knows everyone on sight, inside and outside the house. He comes early, stays late, and unlocks the door for you before you're within earshot of his Bostonian voice. Truly as asset to the Universty.
Joe Hickey. Joe gained campus-wide fame earlier this year when hundreds of students rallied to save his job from the fangs of out-sourcing. A special dinner was held in his honor. Joe, like Dan, knows more student names that most Harvard professors will remember in a lifetime of teaching. Joe also knows where you live. To say that he goes above and beyond the call of duty is a gross understatement, but must be sufficient for now. Additionally, he is a dedicated family man and the sort of friend you can count on for a favor or a good laugh. He is truly a role model and only the coldest of hearts would let him go. Sell the John Harvard statue for scrap metal if need be, but keep Joe Hickey.
Winston Maynard. Winston is another Adams House employee who is known campus-wide despite spending most of his time in a steamy corner of the kitchen. Winston may not know as many names as Joe and Dan, but he'll never forget your face or how you like your veggie burgers cooked. Sometimes he'll have my burgers on the grill long before I get close enough to ask for them. Only mothers and Winston always seem to make the food just right every time. Despite the heat and hard work, he is the only Harvard person I known that I can count on daily for a smile.
I know that I am preaching to the converted. The virtues of these community members are known in the student body and, for the most part, their efforts are met with gratitude and sincere appreciation. Rather, it is the administration and the University community writ large that should heed these praises. When I give to Harvard, if I give at all, it will be with these friends in mind.