We kid you not. On September 10, religion guru Harvey Cox will be the first Hollis Professor of Divinity in recent memory to exercise his bovine grazing rights. Research shows that his position—the oldest endowed chair in the history of higher education in the U.S.—apparently came with grazing rights in Harvard Yard. For the cows, of course.
So it's only natural that Cox kicks off his retirement ceremony and the release of his new book by bringing a Jersey cow named "Pride," courtesy of The Farm School in Athol, Mass., into the Yard. Except the four-legged herbivore will be renamed "Faith" for the day. (God forbid the presence of an amicable, cud-chewing embodiment of one of the seven deadly sins on such an occasion.)
Reverend Peter Gomes, longtime friend and supporter of Cox's grazing rights crusade, will preside over the ceremony along the steps of Memorial Church. There will be musical offerings. And a stately procession—with cow in tow—to the green area right behind the Divinity School, where the ceremony will be topped with a much anticipated milking.
Cox first caught wind of this perk when he became Hollis Professor of Divinity in 2002. The only Hollis professors known to graze their cows in the Yard were Edward Wigglesworth, the first to hold this position in 1722, and his son who succeeded him.
"I thought it was kind of a nice and quaint tradition, so I started thinking why don't we do it?" Cox explained. Clearing his proposal with a formidable list of University officials, security, and groups he never knew existed, such as the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee, was no simple task. But all seemed receptive, if not excited, about a bovine appearance on campus.
Though FlyBy predicts most will simply be surprised or amused to see Faith ambling across the Yard, Cox, who will remain on faculty post-retirement as a part-time research professor, hopes that his send-off exercise will help "reacquaint people with crops and animals and where food actually comes from."
In any case, if you thought the Memorial Church bells were a pain, thank your lucky stars that the Yard is no longer teeming with squealing pigs and other farmyard creatures.
Photo from United States Department of Agriculture/Wikimedia Commons