Be Like Fred
Fred Glimp died the other day.
He spent 50 years in various roles at Harvard and another 20 with no role at all.
He was one of those friends you see rarely but like a lot.
I met Fred in November 1963 in a schoolhouse in Concord, NH. Don’t let that fool you. This was no humble one-room job; this is what schoolhouses throughout the earth aspire to be.
Fred would have been 37 years old and he was, at the moment I met him, both the most important person in the known universe and absolutely terrifying.
He was the recently named Director of Admissions at Harvard, and life is I knew it (and hoped it) was to be determined solely by him. Or so I thought.
He and a few others had driven from Cambridge to Concord to interview candidates for admission. This was not rare. All the Ivy League colleges came to St. Paul’s and they went to the other New England boarding schools for the same reason.
Here is an excerpt from Remembering Fred Glimp in the Harvard Gazette.
“Glimp spent the next six years … traveling the country to seek out candidates who would not normally consider Harvard College an option, and building a student body that was more diverse than ever.”
That was not why Dean Fred Glimp was at St. Paul’s School wasting part of his day meeting me. WASPs like me are not now and never were diverse and of course I had considered being at least the third generation in my family to go to Harvard. I couldn’t imagine anything else.
There were two problems.
Yale had begun a significant effort to decrease the number of people who looked exactly like me. Word was Harvard liked that idea and was trying it too.
That was the macro problem.
The micro problem was me the person, not me the little WASP, not me the little preppy, me the person. I did well enough but I was far from a world-beater.
That is what made 37 year old Fred Glimp so terrifying. He would figure me out.
I would have been dressed like all the others who had signed up for interviews: Sunday chapel gray suit or at least gray flannels and a blazer, white shirt, tie (four-in-hand never Windsor) and highly polished shoes. We were convinced that some years earlier a boy had gotten into Yale because his shoes were polished.
I awaited my turn and the door opened. I don’t remember looking him in the eye or shaking his hand firmly or greeting him by name. All of those things are entrenched in WASP DNA. Like skating backward.
I don’t even remember his first question but it must have been something like, “well, what do you have to say for yourself?”
What I do remember – now etched in my brain like skating backward – was my answer.
“I am the one you don’t want anymore.”
The rest was a blah blah blur.
I did get in and I did go but I did not see Fred Glimp much when I was an undergraduate. He became Dean of the College while I was there and no student ever willingly sought out any Dean.
Some time later, I did learn that my answer was the talk of the St. Paul’s faculty the afternoon of the interview, but I did not know that at the time.
The Fred and Haven story pauses for several decades until the fall of 2000 when my daughter was a freshman.
I saw Fred Glimp somewhere or other and waved.
He waved back and called out,
“We still don’t want you.”
I wish I had one of these buttons. Be like Fred is a pretty good goal.