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College Sends Grads Off with Exhortation to "Serve Society"

By Harry R. Lewis

College Sends Grads Off With Exhortation to ‘Serve Society’

To the editors:

Yifei Chen ’09 says of the Mission Statement of Harvard College, “Nowhere in that statement is any mention of inculcating students with a culture of service to others. Instead, it reeks of unabashed individualism…” (“Volunteering? What’s That?” comment, Oct. 23). But the Mission Statement ends with this exhortation: “Harvard expects that the scholarship and collegiality it fosters in its students will lead them in their later lives to advance knowledge, to promote understanding, and to serve society.” After the Mission Statement was adopted, I rewrote the ritual words presenting undergraduate degree candidates at Commencement to assure the President and Fellows that each candidate stands ready to do these three things. Still today, “serve society” is the last thing Harvard seniors hear from the College administration before they become Harvard graduates.


Cambridge, Mass.

Oct. 24, 2006

The writer is the McKay professor of computer science and Harvard College professor. He was dean of Harvard College from 1995 to 2003.

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