We Still Don’t Want You

Back by popular demand is “We Still Don’t Want You.” It is a slightly modified version of a story called “Be Like Fred” that was written in 2017 when Harvard stalwart, Fred Glimp died.

Until “My Grandfather’s Shoes” a few days ago, it was the personal fave of some readers, perhaps because it was a rare LibertyPell departure from politics.

Fred Glimp 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.

Here’s why.

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. Yup, right up there in the picture.

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.

Sometime 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 another and waved.

He waved back and called out,

“We still don’t want you.”

 

 

 

14 Responses to “We Still Don’t Want You”

Peter W Bragdon, November 19, 2019 at 8:03 am said:

Haven’s statement to Fred Glimp was utterly consistent with the young man I had the pleasure to coach and teach. Haven was candid, unvarnished, direct, honest, entertaining — somehow, through a somewhat lonely upbringing — off at boarding schools at too young an age — he had developed a strong sense of self. Of course, the Haven Pell I knew would speak truth to the visiting Glimp! I bet Haven was into Harvard the moment he accurately described his situation. Yes, Haven’s declaration spread like wildfire across the St. Paul’s campus! It was so refreshingly honest!
My first Headmaster, Sir Brian Hone of Melbourne Grammar in Australia, referred to the “underprivileged rich” — I think Haven made the most out of a tough deck — Glimp immediately knew he had a gem before him in his polished shoes.

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Haven Pell, November 19, 2019 at 8:18 am said:

Readers are going to think we are in cahoots when they see what is coming later this week and next. You will not be surprised as you heard them in late September.

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Charlie, November 19, 2019 at 10:52 am said:

The Harvard college admissions process was, of course, the subject of last month’s 130-page opinion by Judge Burroughs of the United States District currently on appeal. It follows more than four decades of precedent, affirming the importance of diversity in higher education. What does Haven Pell’s story and the comment of his former teacher at St. Paul’s teach us? That admission to Harvard has always had less to do with the particular candidate than the temper of the times and how different, more inclusive, and better those times are now than they were back then, notwithstanding the undoubted personal decency of Fred Glimp.

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Haven Pell, November 19, 2019 at 10:57 am said:

I am in excellent company when I say I never would have gotten in today. Had I to do it again, I wonder what the best choice for me would have been.

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David Barry, November 19, 2019 at 5:56 pm said:

I loved this story the first time around and I love it again. There was a wee bit more detail about the second encounter with Mr. Glimp. I fill it in from memory when I rethink the story, and when I tell it to others. I try to be true to the original, or maybe polish it a bit. Wish i could have told it to my father, a better backward skater than I. As well as he skated he did not make the varsity at SPS. He may have gotten over that in his 60s or 70s, when he was still scoring goals, though I suspect he did not (if he had, I would not be writing about it.). I also would not be writing if I did not appreciate who Haven was at Harvard and who he is now. I am personally very glad he charmed Dean Glimp out of his socks that day. He deserved to. Who else would have said what he said?

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Dulany Howland, November 19, 2019 at 10:53 pm said:

Haven, If you want to know why Fred admitted you, the same reason he admitted me, read Malcolm Gladwell’s David and Goliath. There’s a two page reference to his Admissions Philosophy!

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Haven Pell, November 20, 2019 at 9:36 am said:

Thank you Dulany, I will look for it.

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Temple Grassi, November 20, 2019 at 7:28 am said:

When my godson was a senior in school his Father and I decided that it would be great fun for him (and us) to go to Oxford. He would get a unique experience and we could visit him and play court tennis! The Oxford ‘man’ did indeed come to the boy’s school and asked him what he would like to study at Oxford? He replied -Oh I don’t know – maybe liberal arts
‘young man , you haven’t done your homework , have you? At Oxford you arrive knowing what you are going to study- we don’t have liberal arts!’
A disaster interview- it was bandied about that it was his godfather’s fault that he didn’t know! In the end , he ‘landed on his feet’ at Princeton!

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Haven Pell, November 20, 2019 at 9:38 am said:

An excellent outcome though Oxford would likely have been more of an eye opener.

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Haven Pell, November 20, 2019 at 9:50 am said:

Thank you Dave. The hockey team at SPS was much aspired to back in the day. I can understand your father’s feelings about it. Probably not the same today. I recently heard a woman describe a varsity player as “dumb as a box of rocks.”

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Dulany Howland, December 02, 2019 at 6:57 pm said:

So Temple, your godson should have followed Gordo Cranmer’s example. Gordo decided he wanted to go to Oxford to row/crew. He identified the key rowing college as being St. Edmund Hall (Teddy Hall) and the master as being a big fan of Rhodesia and a key member of the Anglo Rhodesian Society. After joining the Anglo Rhodesian Society, getting an Anglo Rhodesian tie and metal society badge to affix to the front bumper of his car, in August of 1967, Gordo went to Teddy Hall and asked the head porter(who runs the place) and asked if he could speak to the Master about rowing for the college. The head porter arranged for Gordo to meet with the master at his home where they spent some time talking about his rowing for Teddy Hall and why Rhodesia should remain British. The Master told Gordo that he liked having Americans rowing for Teddy Hall and admitted him on the spot (no application necessary) and recommended that he take Social Anthropology, The reason being that he felt Gordo would spend the fall semester in London enjoying the debutant season and the Social Anthropology professor did not show up until the February, so there wouldn’t be a conflict. That, plus the fact that there was no exam and he’d only have to write a short paper would make the course desirable. Gordo crewed for Teddy Hall then tried out for the Oxford crew. He finished his paper which got him an AB, which after several years turned into an automatic MA. Along the way, we played court tennis at the University College Real Tennis Court, several times even in black tie at 2am or 3am in the morning with some of our Bullingdon Club friends including one who went on to become the pro at the Racquet Club in NYC. If your godson had really done his research, he would have discovered that Sir. Radcliffe Maude, the Master at University College, where the Real Tennis court was located had gone to Harvard and had been a member of my undergraduate club, the Spee. He gave us carte blanche use of the court at any hour and Peter Dawes, the pro was there to help my Harvard buddy, Oakley Brooks, and I master the game. A few years later, Peter Dawes left to become the pro at the Real Tennis courts in Melbourne, Australia. Am sure, your godson, like Gordo, would have been admitted on the spot!

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Haven Pell, December 02, 2019 at 7:08 pm said:

great saga, Dulany. Oakley is a reader so he might see this. University College for the court tennis court or Merton College?

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Andrew J Glass, December 03, 2019 at 5:00 pm said:

I didn’t go to Harvard because the dean, McGeorge Bundy, declined to approve a much-needed scholarship or a bursary job for me.

The Yale interviewer, focused on my assertion that I played three dimensional chess at the Bronx High School of Science.?
“What’s that?,” he asked.
“It’s a transparent glass cube composed of eight squares (actually tiered shelves) across each edge and eight squares up — 512 in all.” I replied. “It has some pieces that aren’t to be found in a two-dimensional game, such as a hippogrif, which moves through three planes. two adjacent lines, and one of four points on the cube where it has temporarily landed.”
“And why do you play this game,” he continued.
“Well sir,” I responded. “We are, as you know, engaged in a life-and-death struggle with the Soviets. The next war, if it should come to pass, I am convinced will be fought in the skies and the under the seas. The next generation of leaders I believe must be prepared to cope with these new realities, should the need arise.”
I got in — the first kid from my high school to go to Yale.

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Haven Pell, December 03, 2019 at 5:56 pm said:

Andy, There was also a game called Qubic — three dimensional tic tac toe. Four levels of 4×4 squares and you had to get four in a row. That would have gotten me into a state school but not Yale. Love the battling the soviets idea. Great story

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