A couple of days ago at Harvard College was the first day that students had a chance to get settled away to their dorms; freshmen arrived with their parents, and clutches of parents and their young adult kids were clustered around the statue of John Harvard to have photos taken of them touching the shoe of the statue of Pastor John Harvard (1607-1638) for good luck, in particlular the left foot. Both feet however, show evidence of wear when seen up close and personal (the left much more than the right), proving that even some Harvard students can’t tell their left from their right.
The superstition of touching this guy’s shoe is a tad amusing, having heard John Harvard didn’t found the university, he was a benefactor whose contribution of books even got destroyed in a fire some 250 years ago, save for one volume. In fact this isn’t even the likeness of John Harvard. Truth be known, nobody knows what he looked like, and since the sculptor Daniel French had nothing to go on 240 years after Harvard was founded, he used a student as his model. Also, the base of the statue says that Harvard “founded” the university in 1638. But it was founded in 1636, and named after the Oxford University alumnus, but not founded by him.
The founding of Harvard was by a vote of the legislature in the former colony of Massachusetts Bay, changing its name from the former “New College”.