Making Harvard Modern: The Rise of America's University

By Morton Keller; Phyllis Keller | Go to book overview

EPILOGUE

A s of the year 2000, Harvard was stronger academically, financially, and in national and international reputation than ever before in its (and perhaps any university's) history. The sources of this preeminence—Harvard's iconic national and international standing; the quality of its students, faculty, libraries, laboratories, and plant; its access to the money that made it all possible—showed no signs of diminishing at the century's turn: quite the contrary. Old rivals Yale, Chicago, Columbia, Berkeley were not, by common consent, what they once had been. New challenger Stanford was something else again, but could not yet claim equal superpower status.

Harvard's is an archetypal American success story. And a number of other American universities have had comparable trajectories since World War II. That has been the record of the past. The question for the future: will the great American research universities—and in particular, Harvard—thrive in the decades to come as they have in decades past? Harvard's age, wealth, quality, and prestige may well shield it from any conceivable vicissitudes. But if history teaches anything, it is that every institution, however successful, carries within it the seeds of future trouble. Times, values, social demands change. A century ago, the leading German universities had a similarly dominant position in the world of higher education. That preeminence, to understate the matter, did not last.


1986

In 1986, a half century after its 1936 fete, Harvard had another special birthday to celebrate, its 350th. Sesquis are not centennials, and the 350th Celebration (that was its official name; the proper Latin title,

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