- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 4, 2013

As students head back to school, The List this week takes a look at the oldest institution of higher education in America, Harvard University.

  • 10. The name’s the thing — In 1636, the Massachusetts state legislature established a college in the colony. Two years later, John Harvard, an English minister who immigrated to Massachusetts, donated half of his estate and his entire library to the college upon his death. Because of his generous donation, the legislature named the college after Harvard.
  • 9. Plenty to read — The Harvard University library system is the third-largest in the country, behind the Library of Congress and the Boston Public Library. It contains nearly 17 million volumes.
  • 8. Elite eightHarvard is a member of the Ivy League, a group of private Northeastern colleges known primarily for their academics. The other members of the Ivy League are Yale University, Brown University, Columbia University, the University of Pennsylvania, Princeton University, Dartmouth University and Cornell University.
  • 7. Independent spirits — Eight Harvard alumni signed the Declaration of Independence. They were John Hancock (Massachusetts), Samuel Adams (Massachusetts), John Adams (Massachusetts), William Ellery (Rhode Island), William Williams (Connecticut), William Hooper (North Carolina), Elbridge Gerry (Massachusetts), and Robert Treat Paine (Massachusetts).
  • 6. Well-endowed — As of 2012, Harvard had a $30 billion endowment, the largest of any university in the country.
  • 5. An NCAA first — Harvard Law School student William H. Lewis was the first black American to play college football. The Virginia-born Lewis was named an All-American at center in 1892 and 1893. After graduating, he coached at Harvard, where he wrote a book on college football and developed the idea of the “neutral zone” at the line of scrimmage. After his coaching career, he became a successful lawyer and was the first black to be a member of the American Bar Association. During the presidency of William Howard Taft, he became the highest-ranking black in the federal government when he was appointed assistant attorney general of the United States.
  • 4. I’ll take Manhattan — As chairman of the National Defense Research Committee, a government organization that oversaw scientific research projects during World War II, Harvard President James Conant was the chief administrator of the Manhattan Project which developed the atomic bomb. Conant was the main liaison among Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the military and the scientists who were developing the weapon.
  • 3. Planning ahead — During a speech at Harvard’s 1947 commencement, Secretary of State George C. Marshall outlined a plan to help rebuild and revitalize the economies of European countries that had been destroyed during World War II. The Marshall Plan provided 16 European nations with nearly 13 billion in aid and helped build their economies. This in turn provided political stability to the countries, which ultimately helped stop the spread of communism in the region.
  • 2. The Crimson in Blue and Gray Harvard faculty, undergraduates and graduates served in every branch of the service during the Civil War. Of the 1,662 with Harvard ties who fought on both sides, 1,358 served with the Union, while 304 served with the Confederacy. On the Union side, 110 Harvard men were killed or died from their wounds, 63 died from disease, and three died from accidents. On the Confederate side, 57 Harvard men were killed or died of their wounds, 12 died from disease, and one died in an accident.
  • 1. Hail to the Chief — Eight U.S. presidents are Harvard alumni and have Harvard degrees. John Adams, John Quincy Adams, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy had bachelor’s degrees. George W. Bush has an MBA. Rutherford B. Hayes and Barack Obama received law degrees.

Compiled by John Sopko
Sources: Harvard Gazette; Harvard Crimson; Harvard Alumni Bulletin 1918; American Library Association; National Association of College and University Business Officers and Commonfund Institute; Harvard Graduates Magazine Volume 1. 1892-1893; Virginian Pilot; Foreign Affairs; George C. Marshall Foundation; NBC News; Wikipedia