As Yale arrives at its third and final weekend of tercentennial celebration, the campus will be abuzz with activity, including spirited events ranging from a keynote address by former President Bill Clinton LAW ’73 to a rock concert on Old Campus by the Counting Crows. Students, faculty, and friends of the University will gather one last time to commemorate Yale’s longstanding tradition of leadership and scholarship.
But as the pomp and circumstance of this anniversary draws to a close, some are wondering: how have other Ivy League schools celebrated their historical milestones? There’s Harvard — Yale’s only Ivy elder — which has already celebrated its 350th. Cornell recently turned 125 years old, Columbia is planning its 250th anniversary and Princeton recently toasted 250.
Harvard, America’s oldest academic institution, celebrated its 350th anniversary in 1986. The school enlivened its Cambridge campus with performing-arts events, fireworks, religious services, special meals, over 100 symposia, exhibitions, poetry and even a new John Harvard postage stamp, said Marvin Hightower, senior writer and archivist of Harvard.
“The 350th was initially billed as a ‘family affair’ (in contrast to the grand international panoply of the Tercentenary in 1936),” Hightower wrote in an e-mail, “but the family just seemed to keep growing and growing!”
There were three formal convocations, which included distinguished guests like the Prince of Wales and U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz. Much like Yale’s tercentennial celebration, Harvard’s 350th anniversary allowed all members of the university to take part in the festivities.
Unlike the elaborate on-campus celebrations of Yale and Harvard, Cornell University chose to spread its most recent celebration, its 125th anniversary, across the nation.
“During 1990-91, alumni groups in various regions hosted celebrations that included faculty presentations and meetings with high school guidance counselors,” said Linda Grace-Kobas, director of the Cornell News Service.
The culmination of Cornell’s anniversary celebration took place in San Francisco in Oct.1991, with more than 2,000 Cornell alumni present. This large affair was held in conjunction with Stanford University’s centennial, since the design of Stanford was modeled after Cornell. At this celebration, the presidents of the two universities gave speeches on higher education, and the event included a lively football game between the two schools. Stanford emerged victorious 56-6.
At Columbia University, plans are already underway for the university’s 250th birthday party, which is planned for the 2003-04 school year. Events include an academic convocation, exhibitions emphasizing the university’s cultural contributions to New York City, academic symposia, social events and the creation of a documentary film about Columbia.
“The purpose of the 250th anniversary is to study, celebrate, and commemorate Columbia’s history, inspire alumni to renew or strengthen their ties to the University, and launch the institution toward its next 250 years,” the Columbia Web site states.
The impending festivities have already garnered enthusiasm in the students.
“I am so proud to be part of a university with some heritage and history that it brings tears of joy to my eyes,” said Evan Larkin, a freshman beginning his Columbia experience.
Princeton celebrated its 250th anniversary with a large celebration on campus in Oct. 1996 with ice sculpting, fireworks, lectures given by faculty, over 30 academic conferences, and a convocation ceremony. In addition, the university sponsored a “250th Birthday Musicale,” a classical music concert with performances by Princeton musical artists.
The grand finale of the 250th Anniversary celebration was a climb up Mt. Princeton, a large peak in the Collegiate Mountain Range of Colorado, for all Princetonians, their families and their friends.