Foundation Receives $100,000 Grant To Launch New Capital Campaign

Look familiar? An illustration from the 1897 Scribner's article "Undergraduate Life at Harvard," picturing a room in Claverley, and a recent addition to the Suite's expanding collection of Harvard ephemera.

We are thrilled today to announce two $50,000 grants from the Lillian Goldman Charitable Trust to help fund the Foundation’s operations for the next two years. In addition to providing the money necessary to launch The New Fireside Chats web broadcasts, the annual grants will help develop our planned FDR Suite Internet Museum, expand the Suite’s historical collections, as well as fund day-to-day operations at the Suite. (And we have considerable day-to-day expenses: insurance on the Suite alone runs close to 2K per year, and other than heat and electricity, we receive no financial support from the College…)

The structure of this award was deliberate: splitting the amount into two 50K segments to be paid this year and next was designed to act as a challenge grant, spurring folks like you to help us raise the additional 50K we need complete our annual budget and begin our educational mission of expanding FDR’s legacy into the electronic age.

So in order to put the Foundation on a firm financial footing, we launch today our 2011 capital campaign. Won’t you consider donating at one of these levels?

Member $100
Supporter $250
Donor $500
Trustee $1000
Angel $5000

(And of course, there’s always the Deity level… lol)

If everyone on this mailing list donated just $100, we’d make our goals – unfortunately only a small percentage of you do – 4%, in fact.

I know there are a thousand demands on your charitable dollars, but we’d like to think that our particular combination of Harvard History, House History and presidential history is pretty special and worth supporting.

In addition, if  we make our goal, it greatly increases the chance that these grants will be renewed in future years (and attract other monies to fund our planned scholarship programs, which are so far unfunded.)

So long story short, whatever you can contribute, please do. Just click the How to Donate Button at the top of this page. I will keep you posted on our progress.

And one final note: a number of you inquired during our hugely pleasant Fourth Annual Memorial Lecture & Reception this past Saturday whether or not these events were considered fundraisers for the Suite, and strictly, the answer is no: this lecture series is part of our educational mission, and we price the tickets each year principally to cover our costs, which means depending on attendance, we generally just break even. Hopefully however our attendees go away with a better sense of our mission and an increased inclination to support it. At least that’s the idea!

As always, we remain grateful for your interest and support.

The New Fireside Chats Preview

For those of you not attending the Fourth Annual FDR Memorial Lecture this Saturday, I thought you might enjoy seeing a sneak preview of the The New Fireside Chats web casts I’ll be introducing there:

Of course, this is just an early version the trailer (well not so early, its the 15th one, actually) but I can’t tell you how excited we already are about this project – scheduled guests include nationally known scholar Skip Gates, who’ll talk about race relations in FDR’s time and what it means to be black in 2011, at Harvard and beyond; Nobel laureate Amartya Sen will visit to discuss the pluses and minuses of New Deal economic policy; historian and PBS scholar Doris Kearns Goodwin will be on hand to talk about FDR’s early years;  Ambassador John Gunther Dean ’44 will review the tremendous ups and downs of four decades of diplomatic service – and that’s just for starters. We’ve been sending out invitations to a whole host of folks from both sides of the aisle, to come in and discuss politics, religion, history, the arts, world events, you name it. With any luck, we’ll be posting one or two new broadcasts each month.

And finally, returning of the subject of this weekend’s lecture by Cynthia Koch, we have just five seats left, so if you wish to attend, email me immediately to reserve your spot.

The Fourth Annual FDR Memorial Lecture and Reception

We are delighted to finalize plans for the Fourth Annual FDR Memorial Lecture and Reception at Adams House, Harvard College, this coming April 30th 2011 at 4:30 PM. This year we are truly honored to welcome Dr. Cynthia Koch, a huge friend to the Restoration, and Director of the FDR Presidential Library and Museum, who will be offering an intriguing view of how FDR led the nation during the Depression through popular education, overcoming fears and political obstacles by explaining clearly and directly to the American people how often unorthodox policies might improve their daily lives. (Something we could well do with more today, I fear.)

Our longtime supporters will note that this April, we are moving to our previously announced schedule of alternating years of full banquets and receptions; on the 30th, we will be hosting Dr. Koch’s lecture in the Lower Common Room, followed by a cocktail reception in the Conservatory. Fear not though: our famous FDR raw bar remains – yum – and as always delicious hot hors d’oeuvres and a happily stocked bar will greet attendees. Dress this year: comfortably casual.

Note: as the LCR seats only 80 persons, we are on completely first-come, first-served basis this year, with Foundation supporters given preferred front row seating. Please email me ASAP to reserve your place at Tickets are $35; payment will be at the door, by check or cash only, to benefit the FDR Suite Restoration. Reservations required.

A Missing Place

One of the most delightful aspects of my “job” with the FDR Suite Foundation has been the interaction I’ve had with our students over the last four years. They are an incredible group of young adults at that wonderful point in life where nothing seems impossible and all roads remain open – their energy and enthusiasm are palpable, and provide a tonic for older, wearier bones. Our students are also incredibly, incredibly diverse, in a way that many of you who still remember the tie-and-jacket-clad all male Harvard of old might find almost unfathomable. Even I, who lived in Adams during the fast and free – and now almost legendary – 1980s am impressed. Looking out over the dining hall, the sea of faces is almost kaleidoscopic: Asian, African, Caucasian, Indo-European, European, Native American, of every kind and creed imaginable. There is no one of anything. And the interesting point is, our students take this state of affairs entirely for granted, as if Harvard had always been that way. Of course, if asked, they’ll certainly acknowledge that history must have been far different. But I don’t think they comprehend how different, and sometimes that bothers me; for to measure the worth of such intangibles, don’t you need some personal understanding of the opposite? Can you truly appreciate heat without knowing cold? Sweet without sour? Light without dark? Life without death?

No, I don’t believe so. Not fully. Nor do I think you are fully able to appreciate the expansive man Franklin Delano Roosevelt became as President unless you understand the much more narrow ‘Frank’ Roosevelt at Harvard, along with his highly restricted and closed off college world.

So… long story short, when I give tours of the Suite, I’m always looking for poignant illustrations of how rarefied life in Westmorly Court was, and how different the Harvard College of 1904 is from today’s Harvard University – The Gold Coast with its maid service, private clubs, breakfast in bed, bootblacks and doormen;  the $50 Harvard tuition; the $500 Westmorly rent (the equivalent of some 35K); the gaslit rooms with flickering hearths; the neighing four-in-hand at each street corner; the 10 days it took to reach Europe by steamer,  or the 6 days to the West Coast by steam engine (if you were lucky)….  Remarkable changes all, but still only charming facts and figures to the young.

And then one day a few weeks back, I came across this, or more precisely, I came across this once again, for I personally hung the full size version of this picture in the Suite last fall. (Click on the image to expand the photo.)

Now, I’ve looked at this picture a hundred times at least, in a fruitless search to find FDR and Lathrop in the sea of faces. (FDR, almost assuredly, is there somewhere. The man never missed a photo-op in his life.) But what struck me as I passed the other day was how uniform those faces were. Surely, there must be someone of color somewhere? Seemingly not… But then, wait, up there on the very last row, far to the left…

Sure enough. One proud black face, and next to him… a missing place. And then I noticed something else I had never seen before. A man standing – the only man standing – in the top row, behind the seated figures.

While we can’t be sure, does this seem a likely coincidence to you, that the only face of color in a sea of white is the only one with no one sitting next to him, and that the sole standing man has somehow missed the one remaining seat a few spots down to his right?


I must admit that this discovery – perceived though it may be – has removed some of the pleasure this picture once held for me. Rather than playfully searching for Frank and Lapes as before, my gaze now inevitably wanders to that sole black face, sitting all alone, and I think to myself: what a courageous and remarkable person you must have been to attend a College where people chose not to sit next to you merely because of the color of your skin!

Still, as with most things, there’s a silver lining, I suppose. That perfect example I sought of how much life at Harvard has changed? It’s now just a mouse click away.

January Updates

Paul Riedl applying the antique glaze to the top of FDR's desk.

Happy New Year, Everyone.

I have three quick January updates. First of all, come see a real master at work – craftsman Paul Riedl, who’s restoring the FDR desk. The old girl has been completely disassembled and reassembled with loving car, and will be ready for unveiling for our HAA Board Event on the 5th of February. Click HERE to view a step-by-step of this amazing process. It’s incredible the amount of painstaking, detailed work that goes into the renewal of such a complicated piece of furniture. I want particularly to thank two individuals who made the acquisition, moving and restoration of the desk possible. One wishes to remain anonymous -you know who you are, M, thank you. The other is the family of Richard L. Mayer, ’56, who passed away this summer. Mr. Mayer was, I believe, the second ever person to support our cause, and contributed repeatedly to our various endeavors. This project was very dear to his heart, and we’ll miss him. Thank you Mrs. Mayer for making this wonderful gift in his memory.

Secondly SAVE THE DATE: The Fourth Annual FDR Memorial Lecture will be Saturday April 30, 2011 at 4 PM. The speaker will be Dr. Cynthia Koch, Director of the FDR Presidential Library and Museum, talking on “New Views from Hyde Park” paralleling the multi-million dollar renovation of the exhibits currently underway at the Museum with changes in FDR Scholarship over the decades . This year, we are planning a cocktail and hors-d’oeuvre reception after the talk, and perhaps, perhaps, a small dinner limited to 25 or so. The general consensus from last year was that we should probably give the major gala dinners every other year, and in any event move them out of February. Last year’s blizzards caused a large number of last minute cancellations, with a concomitant impact on our finances. So this year, into the sunny skies of April! We hope! Stay tuned as details develop.

And finally, our study drapes are almost done, but our fundraising campaign is behind schedule. We still need to raise 4K. A contribution of any part of this amount will be most welcome, as we are rushing to complete these elements in front of the HAA event in February;  the textiles will make a dramatic and much needed “Victorianization” to the appearance of the room.

Oh, and one last thing: for the Adams alums on our list, we’ll be relaunching an internet version of the Goldcoaster, an alumni magazine just for the House. Watch for it in your in-boxes in February.