President Lowell and His Influence


SINCE Abbott Lawrence Lowell became president of Harvard University in 1909, there have been great changes in American college education, and this article is an attempt to estimate Mr. Lowell’s share in those changes.

The influence of any single institution in a broad movement is never easy to trace, and even more confusing is the attempt to separate the activities of a president from those of his academic associates. In many universities this particular task of analysis would be easier than at Harvard, because the president has come from the outside, bringing with him experiences and ideas which stand out in contrast against the traditions and habits of thought of the institution itself. The Association of American Universities is made up of some thirty institutions. In ten, including Chicago, Cornell, Illinois, Yale, and Wisconsin, the president is not a graduate of the university, nor was he a professor there at the time of his election. In nine, including Minnesota and Iowa, he was a faculty member but not an alumnus; in two, an alumnus but not a teacher. With Columbia, Stanford, Northwestern, Harvard falls into a third group of nine, with a president who is both an alumnus and a former faculty member.

In addition to the A.B. of Harvard College, received in 1877, Mr. Lowell’s only other degree in course was earned in the Harvard Law School. His faculty experience was gained entirely at Harvard. As a Bostonian of the Bostonians, moreover, he represents both racially and culturally that element in her make-up from which Harvard derives her peculiar flavor.

As the record of events is set forth in the Reports to the Overseers from the Ave in 1909 to the Vale of 1932, it is clear that in nearly every part of his educational empire President Lowell has been willing to play the part of the constitutional monarch. For Harvard College, however, he promptly assumed the portfolio of Prime Minister, and it is in the College that we must seek, and there that we shall find, the chief evidences of his personal influence.

The ideas about education which a man brings to the presidency are likely to be at least as influential upon his conduct as the impressions he receives afterward. An undergraduate who made himself the best distance runner in college and who won highest honors in mathematics may be assumed to have developed an unwillingness to limit education to the classroom and a belief in competition as an educational factor. In the years following Mr. Lowell’s graduation, he evidently gave much more serious thought than the average alumnus to college problems. While a practising lawyer in Boston he wrote a curiously prophetic article for the Harvard Monthly on the Elective System, and a paper on College Dormitories in the Alumni Magazine somewhat later is significant as revealing very definite ideas as to the influence of living conditions upon the all-round development of the student.

When he returned to the University in 1897, he achieved prompt success as a lecturer, and had abundant opportunity to get into touch with students. As a professor, he took an active part in the counsels of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. Meanwhile, in his preparation for The Government of England, he had both reason and opportunity to familiarize himself with conditions in the two universities which have exerted so profound an influence upon English public life, and what he found at Oxford and Cambridge has clearly its place in the formation of his educational ideas.

I suspect that Mr. Lowell may have had something to do with the selection of Woodrow Wilson, then president of Princeton, as Phi Beta Kappa speaker at Harvard in 1909. Certainly this selection guaranteed one powerful plea for the intellectual life of the College. His own informal address to the alumni at the same Commencement dealt with the task of making men realize the value of a college education. He insisted that college tests should measure power, natural and acquired, and, far more difficult, that the students should be convinced that such tests are valid for the purpose.

He had himself delivered the Phi Beta Kappa address at Columbia a few weeks earlier, and had compared conditions in the United States and England. Here, largely by the free use of competition, athletics had, in the esteem both of undergraduates and of the community at large, ‘beaten scholarship out of sight.’ In England, on the other hand, students and community alike were firmly persuaded that success in life was closely connected with high honors at graduation. These three addresses were the opening guns of his campaign, to be followed a few months later by the formal inaugural address, in which the new president, making no bones about ignoring the rest of the University, proposed that in Harvard College ‘we now deliberately set ourselves to make a home for the spirit of learning.’

Mr. Lowell, then, came to his post with a definite objective; moreover, he saw his way clear as to what to do. The way was in fact much clearer than would have been the case had he been taking office at either of the universities which Harvard recognizes as rivals. At Yale, faculty brakes are more powerful than at any other American university, and neither at Yale nor elsewhere was the faculty ready to press for the reforms needed. Princeton, for the moment, was once more a battlefield, where alumni interests, always more powerful when based on love rather than on knowledge, were predominant and profoundly suspicious of any further tinkering with the beloved Alma Mater. Harvard, on the other hand, was ready for action. The Committee on the Improvement of College Instruction, of which the new president had been a member, had presented its famous report, and the academic community had by this time digested the startling findings as to the minute quantity of work actually required for the Harvard A.B. and was eager to improve the situation.

Others might (and later did) approach the task of improving the intellectual climate by roundabout methods, through measurement of ability and accomplishment, or by inquiry into the psychology of the individual and the group, but the president of Harvard characteristically went straight to the point. While C remained the gentleman’s mark, Harvard would remain the home of the gentleman or the scholar, not of the gentleman and the scholar; and his first attack was upon the minds of the students themselves. Shrewdly recognizing that C had never been the gentleman’s mark in the professional school, the new president applied the statistical method to demonstrate the fallacy of the widely accepted notion that a gifted man could safely loaf in college and then buckle down to distinguished work in the Law School or the Medical School.

The first of the basic steps in the reorganization of the College came within a year after his inauguration — the change from a system of practically free electives to the plan of concentration and distribution he had himself foreshadowed twenty years previously. To judge by my own experience in such matters, faculty changes in the curriculum inevitably spell compromise, and I am sure that compromise was not what the new president was after. At any rate, the steps which followed have been essentially administrative in character. So far as they were mandatory, as in the case of the reading periods, they bore upon all departments alike, but where they might touch departmental susceptibilities, as in the type of examination or the employment of tutors, they were optional. In my judgment, the success of Mr. Lowell’s efforts has been due in considerable measure to the wisdom of this policy, which accepted professorial habits of thought not as perhaps they ought to be, but as they are.


Let us now go rapidly over the record itself, as the president in his twentythree annual reports has presented it. There is little space for direct quotation, but I have tried to follow his own words as closely as possible. The first announces that this break from unrestricted election is only a preliminary step. More must be done to shatter that contentment with mediocrity which is the greatest danger facing the College. For a year or so, there are few references to the curriculum, but an attack is opened upon living conditions, the need of freshman dormitories, the concentration of seniors, and more careful attention to dining halls.

In 1912 we have the first statement regarding comprehensive examinations, which the president calls a more radical change in educational practice than anything the University has done for many years. In his own Division of History, Government, and Economics, he reports the provision of tutors as a logical accompaniment of the new system of examinations. Succeeding reports deal with the students’ use of English, and with questions of student exercise and hygiene. The outstanding event in 1915 is the opening of the Widener Library, with greatly improved reading facilities.

In the following year, his own contention that too many courses were being offered in Harvard College is supported by student opinion, reading being regarded by the students as more important than either discussion or lectures. The Report of 1917 contains Mr. Lowell’s courageous pronouncement regarding academic freedom, a statement which cleared the air at a time of hysterical tension; and without academic freedom there can be no satisfactory intellectual life in a college. In the War Report of 1918, the president points a moral for normal times as to the all-roundness of mental, moral, and physical responsibility. Later on he records the adoption throughout the College of the principle of the comprehensive final examination; and, the good effects of community life having been demonstrated in the freshman halls, he sets forth plans which would continue these conditions under University control beyond the freshman year.

The Report of 1922 presents the results of the general examinations, based on experience with more than one thousand students, and discusses the art of the examination and its disciplinary, informational, and potential values. The real cost of examinations is shown to be the load they place upon faculty shoulders, and the functions of the tutor are discussed.

Discussing in 1923 the possible necessity of limiting enrollment, he finds the idea not agreeable, for he sees no form of competitive test which would provide the student body Harvard wants. There is a return to the distinction between raising the minimum requirements and ‘lifting to excellence the capable who are indolent or uninterested.’ He examines and rejects as not adapted to the American college the separate curriculum for candidates for honors, believing it better to emphasize the degree with distinction for work in the regular programme.

In the following year, he again deplores the inefficiency of college preparation: ‘Anyone who has taught freshmen is aware that they cannot read books.’ He returns also to the evils of ‘eating around.’ This report is significant as revealing a growing interest in the opportunities for advanced study, an interest which has culminated in the recently announced system of junior fellowships. This is a logical extension of his ideas for the undergraduates; indeed, since the Fellows are to live in the Houses, they will play their part in the College scheme. Only the limits of space hold me to this passing reference, for nothing is dearer to the president’s heart just now.

The keynote of the 1926 Report is the problem of impressing upon the undergraduates a sense of the vital importance of studies which lead, so far as they can see, to no immediate tangible results: ‘The imponderables are the most valuable but the least visible of things.’

In 1927 comes a new major step, the establishment of reading periods, to occupy seven weeks of the academic year. The importance of the community life is developed further, with comments upon the creation of a new spirit among the students of the Medical School as a result of group residence. In the year following, the president grows more specific as to his plans for Houses, and in 1929, provision having meanwhile been made by the princely gift of Mr. Harkness for bringing the dream into reality, the plans are developed still further. To him the Houses are to be a social device for a moral purpose — ‘a great experiment, in some respects the greatest tried since the College was founded.’ In the valedictory Report of 1931-1932, the president reviews the basic steps: concentration and distribution in the place of unrestricted election, freshman dormitories, general examinations, tutors, reading periods, the Houses — seven of them in operation less than three years from the time of the original suggestion!

This rapid survey has given the broad lines of development, but it fails to tell the whole story, for the reports are rich in obiter dicta which not only round out the picture of the changes in the College, but incidentally reveal the personality of the man chiefly responsible for them. The writer evidently takes a keen delight in the details of building construction; he has a New Englander’s respect for money, all discussions as to fees being of a uniform solemnity; he has his pet educational bêtes noires: psychological tests, vocational intrusions of any sort, such as the telescoping of the professional course into the college. The make-up of the entering class is closely watched from year to year, including the effects of changes in admission requirements, the details of school preparation and of geographic distribution. The president observes with satisfaction that increase in fees proves no discouragement to applicants, but the average age at entrance is far too high in his judgment. There are constant references to the effect of the successive steps in his programme upon the student body: a steady drop in the proportion of men taking the degree in less than four years; fewer men on probation; a growing percentage of those taking the degree with distinction; better health conditions; a drop in the week-end exodus. Some of these, such as the reference to the passing of the Gold Coast, are strong in local color. The fact that eleven out of twenty-four class officers took their degrees with distinction in 1924 is a source of particular presidential satisfaction. We find pleas to alumni and parents to give their support in inculcating businesslike habits on those students whose object seems to be not so much to obtain as to evade an education: ’To learn — and, for that matter, to graduate — is an active and not a passive verb.’ On the other hand, there are appreciative references to student cooperation, and full credit is given to the influence of the Student Council. College athletics are treated with sympathy and with understanding of their place in the scheme of undergraduate life. There is joy in the recounting of an educational contest with Yale, and in evidences of the spread of Harvard doctrine at Bowdoin and Dartmouth.


Other presidents have been keenly interested in stimulating the intellectual life of the undergraduate, but in the face of student traditionalism, faculty inertia, and the doubts and fears of alumni, they have failed to make their ideas prevail. Even Woodrow Wilson, despite incredible effort, won nothing better than a stalemate. In Mr. Lowell’s case, there must be some factors to be reckoned with beyond his own earnestness and the merits of his proposals. Let me indicate what seems to me to be the reason, or rather the combination of reasons, why he has had such unique success in getting his own way.

A modern university is a pretty complicated place; decisions of all sorts must be made, and made promptly. With the best will in the world, few university presidents have found the detachment of mind and heart for a study of the undergraduate and his ways. Harvard College was fortunate both in the president’s willingness to give a free hand to his associates in the professional schools and in his capacity to turn off necessary executive work rapidly, easily, and competently. He has the gift of quick decision, and he profits more fully by what he hears than many a more patient listener. One task which has broken the spirit of so many of his contemporaries Mr. Lowell has left almost wholly to others, — the task of raising money, — and, as all the world knows, he has had no reason to be dissatisfied with the results. While scrupulous in his attention to outside activities for which he has accepted a responsibility, he has consistently refused to be tempted into that morass of obligations, mostly trivial, which consume so much of the time and energy of other university presidents.

And, finally, a president is not merely a collection of educational ideas and administrative habits; he is a human being, and on the humanness of his being depends in large measure that most potent of all factors, the indefinable quality of leadership. In spite of a late start, he had made a fine reputation as a teacher, The Government of England had won him a secure place as a productive scholar, and it would be an affectation to ignore the prestige which comes at Harvard — and elsewhere — from an assured position in the Brahmin caste. The very fact that his extra-presidential activities were limited in number has added to their influence — his conscientious direction of the affairs of the Lowell Institute in Boston, his contribution to the New York Constitutional Convention of 1915, his chairmanship of the Commission on Medical Education. Even the Sacco-Vanzetti Report, although disappointing to perhaps the majority of academic readers, never raised the slightest question of Mr. Lowell’s devotion to duty as he saw it.

Without being in the least what people call picturesque, Mr. Lowell nevertheless makes a picture. His personality is vivid, he does things with gusto — when he writes, what he says has a characteristic pungency of phrase. A system of tutors without comprehensive examinations — as at Princeton— is to him ‘a football field with no goal posts.’ A rapid desk worker, he has been far less closely tied to that article of furniture than most executives. Every Harvard man of his time and every frequent visitor to the University as well must have seen him, his noncommittal suit set off by a crimson cravat, his soft felt hat just on the verge of being disreputable, bearing across the Yard, head down, at a pace which put the sauntering undergraduate to shame.


However we may account for them, there can be no question as to the striking character of the changes in Harvard College, nor as to the general satisfaction of president, faculty, students, and alumni regarding their effect. The Overseers’ Minute adopted upon Mr. Lowell’s resignation recognizes his purpose to quicken the student ’s interest in things of the mind and to cultivate his understanding. It credits him with certain definite measures to the furtherance of that end. ‘By pressing their adoption confidently, persistently, and with skill, he has now seen all of them applied . . . and it has been brought about during his administration that the college undergraduate of to-day works harder and graduates better-equipped than did his predecessor twenty-five or more years ago.’ That the transformation had been nearly a quarter of a century in the making disturbed no one. Newer institutions — Chicago, for example — might transform their colleges overnight, but not Harvard.

But this article is intended to be an appraisal, not a panegyric, and I must face the ungracious task of inquiring whether there are some entries to be made in the debit column. Here, perforce, I leave the safe ground of the record for the treacherous terrain of personal impressions. For what it may be worth, it is my belief that, under any other president whom the Harvard Corporation might have selected and the Overseers approved, the University would have retained its unique prestige, would have added to its wealth, would have made important contributions to scholarship, would have continued to turn out Harvard men bearing the authentic stamp. Some of the more striking developments of the period seem to have depended in only slight degree upon presidential initiative and direction — as, for example, the rapid growth of the Graduate School of Business Administration, and the extraordinary activities in the arts, centring around the Fogg Museum. Probably the progress of the great schools of Law and Medicine would not have been markedly different, though another president, with special interests and capacities, might have changed Harvard’s relative standing in some other professional field — Engineering, Architecture, Education, or Dentistry.

Certainly there has been no lack of scrupulous attention to detail throughout the complex mechanism of the institution, but there may not have been sufficient play of constructive imagination over the University as a whole, not enough of that balancing of values which can be made only by the man at the centre. To be specific, another man with equal ability and energy might have concentrated his efforts and his powers of leadership upon raising the intellectual quality of the faculty, rather than of the student body. For the professor, Harvard is, from her very prestige, what is known locally as a ‘final club.’ Few of her teachers would consider a call to another institution. Furthermore, there is not the demand for new appointments which comes with rapidly rising enrollment. For these reasons, kindly promotion of the good but clearly not the great is doubly dangerous, and there is double need for the most scrupulous care in selecting the relatively few to be called to professorships from the outside. Not a few friends of the University feel that, despite many first-rate promotions and new appointments, Harvard’s share of men of outstanding scholarly distinction has dropped rather than risen since the turn of the century. I have made some inquiry as to the preferences of the winners of fellowships, both foreign and domestic, and find the picture to be quite uneven. In certain fields Harvard is, with practical unanimity, the first choice; in others she is rarely included among the first three. On balance, it would seem fair to say that Harvard is still princeps, but no longer facile princeps.

It is quite possible that Mr. Lowell himself, having decided that he could not do everything, has counted this cost and pursued his course with his eyes open. He is quite frankly more interested in the urbane scholar of the British type, who will charm and stimulate the undergraduate, than in the authority of the multiple-footnote variety, who might prove more useful to the candidate for the doctorate. And, after all, Harvard is not for a day or for a generation, and something must be left to one’s successor.


My other debit entry is of a wholly different character. It concerns Harvard College, the very part of the University to which the president has given such devoted attention. To get a sense of proportion as to what has been happening there, we must turn for a moment to the other colleges in the United States.

During the years from 1909 to our entry into the war, any serious attention to the quality of undergraduate work was a rare phenomenon. The separate colleges were more concerned with new buildings and winning teams, and the universities both with these objectives and with the problems of the professional schools. Nearly everywhere, numbers were rising, gifts were flowing in, alumni were being trained to shout in unison. The product of the college factories found ready purchasers, and few saw any reason to worry. There were exceptions here and there. Princeton has already been mentioned; Columbia was engaged upon a fundamental reorganization of its undergraduate work; the stronger women’s colleges were pressing steadily forward; Reed College in Oregon was a forerunner of the experimental college of to-day. One or two individual voices were raised in criticism of current conditions, and an intercollegiate movement of some significance arose from the discovery by interested fraternity alumni that high academic mortality in any chapter soon results in financial insolvency. Generally speaking, however, the attitude was one of amazing complacency, considering the conditions under which thousands of young men and women were investing four of the most precious years of their lives. Meanwhile, at Harvard, Mr. Lowell pressed steadily forward toward his objective in all the ‘modesty of his confidence,’ to borrow a phrase from a review of The Government of England.

Then came the eighteen months of the war, with its immediate aftereffects, confused and painful in the colleges as elsewhere, and not for a year or more did the colleges resume their normal activities. From then on, there have been countless reorganizations of curricula; the introduction of new techniques, statistical and other; experiments of every kind, all for the purpose of bracing up the college. For the first time there has been constant outside scrutiny. Most foundation gifts and not a few from individuals have been based on more or less searching examination. Religious denominations have surveyed the institutions under their wings; the National Research Council has been active, and so have the Association of American Colleges and the various regional bodies, notably the North Central Association. The resulting changes in educational procedure have centred around three matters: flexibility in the organization of material, including orientation and survey courses, integrated programmes for honors; the influence of entrance tests designed to reveal general intelligence as contrasted with specific preparation, and objective examinations designed to measure progress more accurately; the attempt to understand not only the mind but the whole personality of the individual student, as a basis for guiding his steps intelligently rather than forcing him by statute and regulation to follow certain paths.

Such interests and activities have developed a number of specific plans for the improvement of college instruction, some of which are now in very general use. The outsider cannot say to what degree these have been considered at Harvard; the record shows the degree to which they have not been adopted. Harvard apparently had selected her own line of country and was pursuing her course, deaf to cries of view-halloo to right or to left. It would be tedious to go into detail, but some characteristic instances must be set down.

Harvard sincerely regards the individual student and not the curriculum as the centre of things, but other colleges have gone much further in finding ways to adjust the curriculum to the individual. It is easy to laugh at the crudities still to be found in the modern testing programme, but it is also easy to overlook the possibility, through accurate comparative measurement, of providing a more reliable basis for intellectual competition than anything Harvard has as yet developed. Nor is it only a question of the new techniques; Jesuit colleges, for example, might contribute much from their long experience in the framing of examinations, as might the French system of public instruction, with its insistence upon the organization of material and the art of presentation.

Let us admit that functional administration has been overdone in many institutions. Nevertheless it has a place in the picture to the degree that it provides competent service for the student at the time of his admission, in his adjustment to a new environment, in the use of the library, in the care of his physical and mental health, in the choosing of a career and entering upon it. Harvard, relying so largely upon the part-time service of teachers, is paying less, I am sure, for its administrative services than many another institution, and may be giving less to its students.

Harvard has, in effect, superimposed the English system of examinations upon the American pattern of classroom instruction, a highly difficult proceeding. She has exchanged tutors with the English universities, but the record fails to show the degree to which she has sought guidance nearer home. While she has more Rhodes scholars in the faculty than any other American university, twenty in all, there is no evidence that she has systematically drawn on the group for their unique experience. There are also the numerous professors, including many of our most distinguished teachers, whose undergraduate days were spent in Canadian colleges, under an interesting and, to judge by the results, a very effective modification of the British system.

Most significant of all, perhaps, have been the steps toward an organic unification of the work of the individual in school and college, which, if successful, would provide a cure for many of the difficulties to which Mr. Lowell calls attention in his reports. For several years fundamental studies have been in progress in this field, and proposals have been formulated for experimental revisions in present practice, based upon research, and to be conducted under careful supervision. To-day there are just two colleges which refuse to modify their own machinery of admission in the interest of the nationwide experiments now being carried forward to improve the relations between secondary schools and colleges, and Harvard is one of them.


I am not trying to prove too much. Certain schemes would cancel one another as alternative courses of action; others which have been found effective elsewhere would be wholly unsuited to conditions at Harvard; but the list is so long and the contrast between the Harvard way of doing things and the plans in successful operation elsewhere is so sharp that one is forced to the conclusion that Harvard has a very definite preference for developing her own ideas and an unwillingness to test out the ideas of others. The question arises whether Harvard is not minding her own business too well for her own good, whether she is really as different from other colleges as she appears to think. I might be more charitable in my judgment were it only a question of colleges where economic and other conditions are as different from those at Cambridge as, let us say, Antioch or Rollins, but this does not tell the whole story.

In concentration upon the problem of the scholar and the gentleman, Harvard has been overlooking the steps taken at the great women’s colleges to solve the closely related problem of the scholar and the lady. Recent happenings at coeducational colleges like Oberlin and Swarthmore might also be studied —and, I hasten to add, not because they have to do with coeducation, for Harvard, like Oxford, is a little touchy on this point, in view of the increasing number of young ladies to be seen about the place. The university colleges at Columbia and Chicago, which present problems even closer in character to those at Cambridge, are encouraging students to prove by examination their right to enter courses which will really test their powers, and have done much in other ways to break down the academic lockstep. Closer still come Dartmouth, which has gone much further than Harvard in relieving the serious senior from classroom attendance, and Princeton, which, in her new (and this time unheralded) intellectual renaissance, has revived the senior thesis with satisfactory results.

It is not easy to see why Harvard should institutionally be so isolated. Her faculty men are active in the network of our national learned and professional societies. It is n’t a matter of faculty inbreeding. The present dean of the College, for example, was never a Harvard undergraduate. The deans in Law and Medicine were neither undergraduates nor professional students of the University, and the same is true of many of the most distinguished figures in the faculty. More, I think, than at any other university in the country, it is Harvard which transforms the newcomer, rather than the other way round.

This insulation from what is being thought and what is being done elsewhere has had two results. One is that the Harvard undergraduate must have missed something, perhaps a good deal, which has proved of value to his contemporaries in other colleges. The other has to do with Harvard’s own influence upon other institutions. Let me quote again from the Minute of the Overseers: ‘We all believe that this institution serves the country not only by giving excellent opportunities for training and study to the youths who enroll in its various departments, but by showing how educational methods can be improved and cultural standards can be raised. . . . The influence of the innovations which have just been enumerated has already extended itself widely. ... It tends to reënforce a faith ... in the importance of cultural as distinguished from vocational education.’ It is open to serious question, however, whether this influence is as great as it should be or as it might have been. One friend of mine, a man of broad experience, goes so far as to say that Harvard College has had practically no influence upon American education during the past twenty-five years. ‘They have,’ he adds, ‘consistently built up their splendid way of doing things and their very fine technique and morale entirely from the inside, and with disregard, to put it mildly, for any opinions or studies that emanate from more than ten miles west of Boston.’ This need not be taken literally, but it represents a point of view held much more widely than is realized at Cambridge.

To be sure, there are counterbalancing advantages which come from a tendency to disregard what others may think. No other institution would have had the sang-froid to publish, as Harvard did in 1904, that its degree could be had at an average price of three and one-half hours’ study per week outside the classroom — but the announcement of that unpalatable truth rang the knell for the old era. Harvard’s imperviousness, furthermore, has made for steadiness of progress. Certain institutions are so susceptible to impressions from the outside, so easily diverted by passing winds of doctrine, that in them no single plan ever gets a chance to demonstrate its value. Harvard may like to do things her own way, but even the friend I have cited admits that the results are good.

Another friend, also of wide experience, points to the spread of comprehensive examinations as evidence of the direct force of Harvard’s example; but this spread has been chiefly in connection with the separate honors programmes which Harvard herself has declined to establish. Harvard, furthermore, is blessed with financial resources which provide teachers on relatively generous salaries and a generous ratio of teachers to students. She has received great gifts for special purposes, such as the Houses. No wonder her steps are hard for other institutions to follow. When we turn from details to the Harvard programme as a whole, it is clear that this stands out not as embodying techniques which have been developed elsewhere, not as representing the consensus of thoughtful opinion throughout the country — far from it, but rather as the contribution of a highly selected and relatively homogeneous group, armed with native intelligence as contrasted with special training, and to an unusual degree rich in social experience, a factor which is tied into the whole educative process in ways we do not yet see clearly. Here again is a combination of factors which would be difficult if not impossible to duplicate elsewhere.

Despite the chilling effects of Harvard’s institutional introversion, despite the financial difficulties in following her example, Harvard has already exerted, and will continue to exert, an influence which, though indirect, is both powerful and salutary. For the senior American college, with its distinguished place in the history of our country, with its power to attract our élite, to have succeeded in making learning not merely respectable but honorable cannot fail to have its effect upon thousands of our young people, the thoughtful and the thoughtless alike. Here, and not in the merits of the specific devices adopted, do we find the true significance of Harvard’s contribution.


In conclusion, let me turn once more to the president. In tracing the details of reorganization, I made no attempt to separate the man from the institution, but when it comes to judging broad results it is not hard to assign the chief credit to the man. Here we have a well-rounded and understandable scheme. Whether the individual steps are the best conceivable may be doubted, but they certainly fit into a coherent whole, and coherence is never achieved by faculty action; for it we must look to individual leadership.

Mr. Lowell’s contribution stands out for all to see. During a period when the interest of other universities was concentrated upon professional and graduate work, when the separate colleges were largely committed to physical expansion, here was one man for whom the intellectual life of the undergraduate was of absorbing interest, and who pressed for the improvement of that life with unremitting tenacity of purpose. He had from the first a clearcut picture of his objective; a moral fire as to its importance, which, instead of growing dim with the passing years, has burned ever brighter; administrative capacity rare in a man of his type; willingness to forgo opportunities to be seen and heard in extra-presidential activities; and finally a gallant obstinacy in refusing to be diverted. If ever a university president kept his eye on the ball, it has been the retiring president of Harvard.

It is of course too soon to pass judgment upon his permanent place among university presidents. Time alone can furnish the necessary perspective. But that the record of his administration will furnish one of the most interesting and stimulating chapters in the history of college education, there can be no question.