Remembering Harvard

Remembering Harvard, 1949-1950

Reprinted with permission from the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences alumni Newsletter.

Remembering Harvard, 1949-1950

by Roger Lee Kenvin, AM ‘56, English and American literature and language

Roger Lee Kenvin received his master’s from the Graduate School in 1956. He later went on to take an MFA and DFA in drama at Yale and began a long career teaching English and Theater at such institutions as Bowdoin College, Northeastern University, Le Rosey in Switzerland, Isabella Thoburn College in India, as well as Mary Washington College in Virginia, the University of Notre Dame and St. Mary’s College, and California Polytechnic State University. He specialized in bringing dance and theater together and was the first chair of departments of theater and dance at Mary Washington College and California Polytechnic State University. He is also a writer, author of Krishnalight (1976), a play published in Calcutta, India, and three collections of short stories, The Gaffer and Seven Fables (1987), Harpo’s Garden (1987), and The Cantabrigian Rowing Society’s Saturday Night Bash (1998).

Before I arrived at the Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences in the fall of 1949, I tended to idealize it, believing it to be an Americanized combination of Oxford and Cambridge. Some of what I believed was true. Harvard was a stimulating, intellectual place and it had a more international student body than I had seen anywhere in the country. It also had a president, James Bryant Conant, whom I greatly admired and respected, and, although Cambridge seemed too hurly-burly and bustling for my Anglo tastes at first, it did have a pleasant river that meandered through it with a long green grassy bank on which one could sit and watch rowing sculls slide by in the water. And Dunster, Eliot, and Lowell’s cupolas were a reasonable substitute for the “dreaming spires” of Thomas Hardy’s vision with the prospect of urbane, civilized Boston in the...