I have just received a mailing from the Harvard Class of 1954 inviting me to contribute a statement of any length to the 60th Anniversary Class Report. I have to decide whether or not to submit something. I actually graduated in '53, but Harvard, in its infinite wisdom, takes no notice of such details. From the moment I enrolled as a Freshman in the Fall of 1950, I was forever a member of the Class of '54, and plans were made by Harvard to start dunning me for money as soon as at all feasible. Had I dropped out after six weeks, I would still be considered a member of the Class of '54, and since Harvard, for some mysterious reason, only has a six year graduation rate of 93% [how on earth can they possibly lose seven percent of each class, considering the care with which each egg is sexed and candled for any lurking imperfection?], there must be a good many aging degree-less chaps out there still considered members of this or that class who can be hit up for donations. In the past ten years, Harvard has also been sending me estate planning tips -- waste not, want not.
I have never actually gone to a class reunion, but I have contributed statements, in some cases hundreds of words in length, to the fifth, tenth, fifteenth, twenty-fifth, thirty-fifth, and fiftieth Class Reports, on occasion using the opportunity to write harsh criticisms of Harvard's rather timid and conservative stance toward the larger world [Harvard refused to divest when it might have done some good in the struggle against apartheid, but as soon as the Robben Island prisoners were released and the fight was over, it awarded Nelson Mandela an honorary degree -- they really have no shame.]
I have actually donated money, but just once. There used to be at Harvard, and perhaps still is, something called the Detur Prize -- your choice of a free book if you get almost all A's one year [this was back in the day when getting all A's was not automatic] I had a good year, and for my efforts got Harry Austryn Wolfson's classic work on Spinoza. I received an appeal from Harvard for a donation to the Detur Prize fund, and thought I really owed them something, since I so cherished the book, so I gave them a hundred. But never again.
My disappointment with Harvard has been overtaken by bigger ideological disappointments, but a statement for the Class Report would give me the opportunity to immortalize my grandchildren, who have come along since my contribution for the Fiftieth Report. Of course, I could revisit the Marty Peretz fiasco, but somehow I just don't think he is important enough to beat up on yet again.
Maybe I should wait for the Seventieth, when they will, I should imagine, be eager to fill up the report with anything they can get. On the other hand, I could use the space to advertise my on-line collections of papers. Now there's a thought.