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Harvard is ramping up preparations for its 375th anniversary that University leaders say will serve as a momentum builder for the upcoming capital campaign, a fundraising effort that is expected to raise several billion dollars.
Anniversary festivities will kick off on Oct. 14 with an evening of music, local food, and house spirit, according to University Marshal Jackie A. O’Neill. The celebrations will culminate with a gathering in an illuminated Tercentary Theatre. There, roaming performers will entertain guests while they sample Taza chocolate flowing from fountains, traditional New England apples, and an 18-by-15 foot cake—serving 4,000 people—that will be prepared by celebrity chef Joanne Chang ’91, who owns the local bakery chain Flour.
Renowned cellist Yo Yo Ma ’76 will perform along with the Harvard-Radcliffe Orchestra and Holden Choirs.
Houses will also celebrate with parades and a historical dinner that will include dishes like hasty pudding.
In the weeks prior to the kick off, banners advertising the event and an audio installation featuring excerpts of notable speeches given at Harvard will be placed throughout the Yard.
Administrators selected a date in mid-October because historians believe that the University was founded during that month in 1636 and because many alumni and parents will be on campus for the fall Alumni Association meeting and Freshman Parents’ Weekend. Sixty-thousand local alumni were also invited to attend.
Twenty-five years ago, the University’s 350th anniversary was commemorated with a lavish formal dinner and an opening speech delivered by Prince Charles.
But Harvard Alumni Association Executive Director Jack P. Reardon Jr. ’60, who was present at the 350th anniversary, said that this celebration will be a more understated event.
“We’re a different institution today,” O’Neill said. “We are conscious of budget issues.”
O’Neill said that financial constraints have translated into an event that is student-driven and “homegrown.” The Marshal’s Office has been working closely with student groups such as House Committees and the Undergraduate Council to organize the event.
The University’s finances have been tight in the wake of the 2008 economic crisis, when Harvard’s endowment plunged by 30 percent.
The 375th will showcase Harvard’s progressive side and highlight its increased commitment to diversity, sustainability, and technology, according to O’Neill.
“Anniversaries are about marking a moment in time and looking back, but also about looking forward,” O’Neill said. “There has been remarkable change in the past 25 years.”
And as it prepares to celebrate its anniversary, the University has the upcoming capital campaign in mind.
Reardon said that the anniversary, like reunions, will serve to reconnect the University with alumni who they hope will contribute to the capital campaign.
“I think you get the most support for Harvard in every way when people think about the place,” Reardon said. “When people are back on campus, they think about [Harvard] more. The campaign will be coming along and certainly we want alumni to be thinking about what goes on here and the place’s needs.”
O’Neill said the anniversary will set the tone for the upcoming capital campaign and build momentum and excitement among alumni.
“It’s a party with a purpose—I’m not going to lie,” O’Neill said.
— Staff writer Tara W. Merrigan can be reached at email@example.com.
— Staff writer Zoe A. Y. Weinberg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction.
CORRECTION: SEPT. 2, 2011
An earlier version of the headline for the Sept. 2 story "Harvard's 375th Anniversary To Kick Off with October Celebration" incorrectly stated that the 375th anniversary would serve as a kick-off for the upcoming capital campaign. While University adminstrators say the event will be build momentum for the campaign, it is not the formal beginning of the capital campaign.
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