Amid Boston Overdose Crisis, a Pair of Harvard Students Are Bringing Narcan to the Red Line
At First Cambridge City Council Election Forum, Candidates Clash Over Building Emissions
Harvard’s Updated Sustainability Plan Garners Optimistic Responses from Student Climate Activists
‘Sunroof’ Singer Nicky Youre Lights Up Harvard Yard at Crimson Jam
‘The Architect of the Whole Plan’: Harvard Law Graduate Ken Chesebro’s Path to Jan. 6
Students, colleagues, and Harvard affiliates joined friends and family to celebrate the life and memory of former U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter at Memorial Church on Wednesday morning.
Carter served as the director of Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs for five years until he died from a heart attack on Oct. 24 at 68 years old. U.S. President Joe Biden called Carter a “force of nature” at a memorial service at Washington National Cathedral last month.
Dean of HKS Douglas W. Elmendorf gave the welcoming statement, describing Carter as a devoted and knowledgeable professor at the Kennedy School.
“He modeled public service,” Elmendorf said. “It was through public service, of course, that Ash became so well-known and admired beyond the Harvard campus.”
Graham T. Allison ’62 — Carter’s colleague and former dean of the Kennedy School — told stories about his time mentoring Carter, describing him as ambitious and “often awkward and anxious,” which received laughs from the crowd. Allison also mentioned that Carter’s background in physics gave him a unique perspective on politics, which added to his success in the field.
“The only bad thing I can say about Ash is that he was educated at Yale and Oxford,” Allison joked.
Meghan L. O’Sullivan, a professor of international affairs at HKS, said in her speech that she wanted to focus on Carter as a person instead of his career achievements.
“His biggest legacy will be his students,” she said.
Sullivan said that in preparation for her speech, she looked through students’ writings in memory of Carter, which highlighted Carter’s “warmth” and “encouragement.”
Eric B. Rosenbach, Carter’s close friend and co-director of the Belfer Center, teared up as he spoke about his relationship with Carter.
“We talked about almost everything,” Rosenbach said. “Ash and I spent so much time together in the Pentagon that people often confused us.”
Rosenbach recalled Carter’s compassion and his love of hugs.
“Once a very prominent four-star general asked me to ‘Please tell the secretary not to hug me in front of the troops,’” he said.
Aside from Carter’s students and colleagues, some Harvard affiliates who never met Carter attended the event.
Maya A. Bodnick ’26 said she heard of Carter through a class she took at the Kennedy School and chose to attend the memorial with some friends to honor his memory.
“He’s one of the most important military leaders in the last couple of decades,” Bosnick said. “So I’m here to celebrate the life of Ash Carter as someone who really cares about politics and national defense.”
To conclude the event, Rosenbach summarized the three lessons he believed students should learn from Carter.
“First, your perspiration matters more than your inspiration. Second, strategy execution often requires a force of nature. Third, you should always grab life by the reins,” he said.
Want to keep up with breaking news? Subscribe to our email newsletter.