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.

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.

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.

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Haven Pell

At the conclusion of the Constitutional Convention of 1787, a woman asked Benjamin Franklin, “Well, Doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?” Without hesitation, Franklin replied, “A republic, if you can keep it.”

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30 comments

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  • “Be Like Fred. Fred Glimp died. . . .”
    This is unwelcome instruction. I hope it was not specifically directed at your elderly readers. I recall you were touting health rationing just the other day.

  • Little report cards (about 3″ x 5″) were sent to our parents periodically with grades and a brief summation. Mine always was, “Ashley is not living up to expectations.” I also interviewed for Harvard. It must have been Glimp who told me, “l want you to apply. Harvard needs happy C students.”

    • I wish you had. How many Zen Master Oracles of the Ozarks do you think they have had. Those are always in high demand.

    • Wow, John thank you. Such a nice comment from the noted author of Harvard Hates America, former Congressman and famed podcaster.

  • The R C Lea Harvard legacy ended with Jr as I ended up at Boston Univ. Harvard Yard was pleasant but Kenmore Square and Fenway and ………. were just as fine 🙂

      • School in Greater Boston in the 60’s was an amassing experience. Almost any door on Comm Ave might be a college. The Commons, Beacon Hill, City and State capitals on top of each other, early Country history around any corner. Though Philadelphian by origin, I’ve considered myself a New Englander – school, college, military and all seasons vacations. Sigh, now Myrtle Beach is our final home

  • At some point during my four years at Harvard, probably my junior year, I was named to an undergraduate committee on athletics. I suspect Fred Glimp had a hand in picking me as he was always at the meetings and knew my name. While I have zero recollection of the reason for the committee, ditto whether we even made any sentient recommendations, the one takeaway for me was how much I liked and admired Fred Glimp. God rest his soul; he was the epitome of bright individuals who were contributing rather than broadcasting.

  • Wonderful story, I remember Fred Glimp’s name on certain communications when I was busy not living up to my potential. Just terrific – especially the called out comment about “We still don’t want you! Fabulous!

    I was a pretty decent backwards skater. I learned from my father, who attended the same school you did. He hadn’t made varsity hockey at SPS and he didn’t make it at Harvard. Ten year olds (like me who played scratch hockey with him later had to get used to being knocked across the ice. No dummy, I found it was much
    more fun to play with him than against him.

    About Harvard admissions scouts: the man who came to Bucks County to interview me and others. I told him I was worried about my upcoming math SAT score.

    This is true: he told me not to worry because Harvard didn’t use the math score in admission. In the math SAT the following year, I treated it like entertainment, answering only easy questions and quitting 15 or 20 questions in.

    When I got to Harvard the following year I went to see an assistant dean. I was hoping to find I had revorded the lowest math SAT score in Harvard history. He lookef things up and
    told me, sorry, you didn’t score a record.

    There’s always someone who outscores you at Harvard.

  • Haven–

    What a wonderful remembrance! Thank you very much.

    I knew who Fred Glimp was. I didn’t know him, and, like you, I did my best to stay away from deans while I was at Harvard. He was Director of Admissions when the world somehow made a cosmic mistake and I was admitted to the Harvard class of 1968.

    In the spring of 1966, I was exposed as the under-prepared rube from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula that I really was and given the choice — withdraw or be flunked out. I withdrew.

    After four years in the Marines, I applied for re-admission in the spring of 1970. Fred had moved on to the Boston Foundation by then, so he can’t be blamed for the circumstances surrounding my re-admission and graduation with the class of ’73.

    I was more familiar with the other Fred — L. Fred Jewett, who was Assistant Dean of Freshman in the Fall of ’64 and went on to be both Dean of Admissions/Financial Aid and then Dean of Harvard College, some years after Fred Glimp.

    Fred Jewett died in 2011, at the age of 75. Now, Fred Glimp is gone too.

    I have always tried to live in the present, but it is getting harder and harder as the real lions we looked up to shuffle off their mortal coils.

    Thank you so very much for bringing this remembrance into my in-box and giving me the opportunity to bask in the glow of a gentler day gone by.

    • early in the blogging process, I was properly called out for writing ass hole as two words. I don’t do that anymore.

      I did check both of the spellings and Google redirects preppie to preppy. Perhaps there are dictionaries that would be appalled and, likely, there are Harvard professors hard at work on the matter.

  • It was R. Inslee Clark who first rang the diversity bell at the Ivies in the early 60’s, as admissions director at Yale. R. himself was a preppie/y, who early embraced the new zeitgeist of diversity and equal opportunity. To any number of Wasps, he was a traitor to his own class, as he swiftly pulled the rug out from under a large contingent of preppies who prior to the depredations of R. could have easily slid into an Ivy with gentlemanly Cs acquired at an unchanging roster of prep schools.

    I got quite good marks at SPS, unaccountably. Except for math. I could do math to an acceptable degree if I exerted myself, which I rarely did. I had no natural aptitude for the stuff, and no interest in it either. I generally got bad marks in math.

    My Yale interviewer brought up the subject. He asked me what I thought about my math performance. I replied I felt it was a millstone around my neck. He smiled thinly, and said “good image.” It is hardly an original image, but it seemed to have some sort of positive effect on my interviewer. What was his name? Howe?

    I resolved to grind down at least to some degree the millstone. Mr. Ronald Clark, the SPS college admissions honcho, remarked to me shortly thereafter about my use of the word millstone. Howe must have mentioned it to Clark. Ronnie Clark said to me, a millstone is exactly what it is. I got the message. Game on.

    I studied my math (algebra?) with painful fury until the next big test. I got an 82 on that test, a good deal higher than the 60s and 70s I had theretofore received. I took the test paper with an
    exquisite 82 plastered across it in red and marched it down to Ronnie Clark’s office. He wasn’t
    there, but the door was open, so I placed the test paper right in the center of the green blotter
    on his desk, and exited. I saw Mr. Clark several times after that event as he sailed along various
    hallways. He smiled at me with a wry expression on his face as he went by, but said nothing. This was a change from his usual policy of ignoring me. I wondered if the wry look was an indication of his disapproval of my bold invasion of his privacy, or if he, perhaps begrudgingly, admired my moxie. I’ll never know, but I’m leaning towards admiration in some measure, because shortly thereafter I got into Yale.

    • maybe those oval Harkness tables that we sat around in class helped us to be quick witted? Seems to have worked in your case

  • Haven, really good story and thanks for sharing with all of us. I knew some one like Fred who was a great help to me who went on to become the head of the University of Minnesota system and still remember him.

  • Haven:

    Great story. Thanks for sharing.

    They want us even less now, and they want to erase us from their
    history by changing the words of our alma mater.

    “Til the stock of the Puritans die.

    RT

  • Haven
    I am responding to your wonderful post in the juxtaposition of momentarily setting aside Hillbilly Elegy to read my emails including your post. Two brilliant, very revealing assessments of how each author grew up with and respond to the diverse impacts of status and privilege vs the lasting impact of a rural poor hillbilly heritage.
    Greeting from our Minnesota lake cottage on a morning of low sixties temperature, but with the promise of afternoon sunshine.
    Mark Olson

  • We had an Exeter grad in my class (’69) at Chapel Hill who went there because he did not get into Harvard. He pledged a frat, played freshmen lacrosse ( remember freshmen teams- bring ’em back), and did very well academically- in fact, he did so well that he was able to transfer to Harvard for his sophomore year! Guess what- he trasnsferred back to UNC for his jr and sr year!