In a ceremony imbued with history and tradition, the oldest continuously operating chapter of Phi Beta Kappa held its annual literary exercises yesterday morning in Sanders Theatre.
With a fife player and a drummer leading the way, about 100 inductees and a smaller number of Faculty--all dressed in full academic regalia--proceeded from Boylston Hall in the Yard to Sanders. There, away from the sweltering midday heat, the students and their supporters filled the entire bottom level of the theater.
A partial who's-who of campus personalities on stage that included University President Neil L. Rudenstine and Radcliffe President Linda S. Wilson, Chapter President Sandra A. Naddaff '75, director of studies in the literature concentration, called the meeting to order.
Praising the inductees for their "outstanding achievement in liberal scholarship," Naddaff offered a short primer on the chapter's history from its founding in 1782. In addition, she highlighted the Harvard chapter's relationship with Radcliffe's considerably newer group, mentioning that the two groups merged only four years ago in 1995.
But it was in 1799, she said, that the chapter first voted to conduct the exercises in the manner it did today--starting with a prayer and following with a poem and then an oration.
Naddaff presented this year's poet, Wellesley College Professor Frank Bidart, who follows in a long line of poetry luminaries. She called him "a man of many words."
A professor since 1975 and prolific writer, Bidart has won numerous literary awards, including a nomination for the Pulitzer Prize for poetry. He presented two short poems--"Advice to the Players" and "Lament for the Makers"--both of which drew sustained applause from the audience.
After a musical interlude by Harvard's Collegium Musicum, Chapter Vice President Everett I. Mendelsohn, who is also professor of the history of science, introduced this year's orator, Professor of Law Martha L. Minow.
Mendelsohn praised Minow--once a law clerk to former Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall--calling her "one of Harvard's most humane intellects."
For her part, Minow presented an oration on the topic of memory, something that she referred to as the "brain's attempt to make sense of our experience."
The frequently light-hearted speech covered a range of subjects--from the role of memory in the field of law, to the function of war memorials.
Expressing some concern that the mass atrocities of the 20th century would fail to be remembered, Minow encouraged the inductees to use memory as a way of improving the world.
"We're giving you a flawed, partly remembered world," Minow said. "Memory is in your hands."
But in addition to both the poetry and the oration, chapter affiliates inducted other luminaries, including Bidart, to Phi Beta Kappa and presented teaching awards to three Harvard professors.
Chapter Corresponding Secretary Elisabeth W. Swain '63 announced the induction of John W. Cobb '49, who recently returned to the College to study and teach Latin and Greek; Susan Story Lyman '49, a former chair of the Radcliffe Board of Trustees; A'Lelia P. Bundles '74, Washington bureau chief for ABC News and first vice president of the Radcliffe College Alumni Association; and Charles A. Czeiler '74, a professor of medicine and expert in circadian rhythm.
Also inducted were Walter S. Isaacson '74, managing editor of Time magazine; Professor of Anthropology Maryellen Ruvolo '74; Arthur E. Spiess '74, an archeologist with the State of Maine Historic Preservation Commission; Henderson Professor of the Psychology of Personality Brendan A. Maher, who is retiring from the Faculty of Arts and Sciences; and Rev. Wendell W. Meyer, associate minister of the Memorial Church.
In addition, Professor of English and of Comparative Literature James T. Engell'73 presented the three Phi Beta Kappa teaching awards to Professor of Psychology Daniel T. Gilbert; Sack Associate Professor of Political Economy David I. Laibson '88; and Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Michael D. Smith.
The event concluded with a singing of both "Radcliffe, Now We Rise to Greet Thee" and "Fair Harvard."
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