Tag: Radcliffe College

Harvard Honors Jessye Norman

For this post we would like to celebrate honors received by Jessye Norman, who passed away in September 2019, starting with the honorary doctorate she received from Harvard in June, 1988. This was one of many honorary doctorates she received during her lifetime. At this time in Harvard-Radcliffe history, Radcliffe College was still awarding degrees to female students, as it was the female coordinate institution for the all-male Harvard College. Although an agreement was signed to combine admissions offices in 1977, a full absorption of Radcliffe College into Harvard University did not happen until 1999.

This photograph of Jessye Norman was taken during the convocation events.

Jessye Norman looking at the camera during convocation

Standing in the center of the following photograph is Oscar Arias Sánchez, President of Costa Rica, the recipient of the other honorary doctorate given that year.

Eight people psing for picture, including Jessye Norman

In 1997, Norman received the Radcliffe Medal, given annually to individuals whose lives and work have had a transformative impact on society. It was given to Norman at the Radcliffe Annual Alumnae Association Luncheon. An audiocassette of the luncheon is available by appointment only in the Schlesinger Library. Also bestowed the honor was musician Lena Horne, a recipient in 1987.  

Harvard wasn’t finished giving Norman awards. In 2016, she was awarded the W.E.B Dubois Medal honoring those who have made significant contributions to African and African American History and Culture. The award was presented at the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research W.E.B. Du Bois Medal Ceremony at Harvard University, available on YouTube. As part of the ceremony, Ingrid Monson, Quincy Jones Professor of African-American Music at Harvard, read a passage about the power and necessity of music, from W.E.B. Du Bois “The Sorrow Songs” from his seminal work The Souls of Black Folk. Lana MC Lyte’ Moorer, an acclaimed female hip-hop musician, was also presented the award in the same year for her contribution to music.

These photos, along with photos of the luncheon, are held at the Radcliffe College Archives at the Schlesinger Library and are available upon request. Photographs used with permission from the Schlesinger Library.

Radcliffe Medal Recipients

Harvard Honorary Degree Recipients

W.E.B. Du Bois Medal Recipients

Old classes go, new classes come*

The grass is growing along the edges of the paths in Harvard Yard; the banners are hung in Tercentenary Theatre; seniors are making last rounds of their favorite haunts in Cambridge: it’s time for Commencement and class reunions.

Anyone who works in a college or university music library or archives is used to requests from alumni for copies of their favorite college songs; while for years we faxed blurry copies of “Fair Harvard” all over the world, we’re very glad to say copies of both the 1922 edition of the Glee Club’s Harvard Song Book and the 1909 edition of A Book of Radcliffe College Songs are now available online.

The 1922 Harvard Song Book, like many other university anthologies, is a combination of songs specific to the University, and especially to sporting events (“Soldiers Field,” “Poor Old Yale,” and others), with songs from Glee Club concerts and revues (“The Skye Boat Song,” “Good Night, Ladies,” “Jingle Bells”). Certainly, there are many other places to get a copy of “Gaudeamus Igitur,” but with this volume and a cadre of willing singers, all you really need are two football teams and an arena to recreate your own Harvard-Yale game.

The 1909 A Book of Radcliffe College Songs is a new addition to our digital library; its editors collected not only songs about the college, but some of the standard choral repertoire being performed by the students’ music clubs and songs composed for Radcliffe’s vibrant tradition of amateur theatricals. Later editions of the college song book – not yet digitized – reveal intriguing changes in the music that was most associated with the school by its own students: in the 1916 songbook, for example, most of the choral works were replaced by Radcliffe songs, and a new section of rally lyrics provides evidence for the popularity of basketball at women’s colleges.

Whether you’re graduating and leaving Cambridge, or returning to Harvard after a long time away, we hope that these collections will remind you of your own college experiences.

For further exploration:


* The opening lines of Radcliffe’s 1911 Class Song, written by Alice Hunnewell.

– Kerry Masteller

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