School Spirit

Harvard Divinity School Senior Class (1895)Harvard Divinity School Senior Class (1895)

From the Dean's Report, 1908/1909

"One of the principal problems of the School is the maintenance of a school spirit among the students. This may seem of trivial importance compared with academic interests, but in the training of ministers it has exceptional significance, for nowhere else does a professional spirit (in the best sense of the term) count for so much as in the work which clergymen are called upon to do together. This indeed is one justification for the existence of a separate divinity school, the curriculum of which necessarily overlaps at many points that of the college, and at others is a legitimate extension of it. A half-century ago this was not the case, but with the changing attitude of theology, affecting both the subjects and the methods of professional study, the modern theological school has become of a piece with the college and the university. Consequently it has frequently been urged that, no valid reason now exists for maintaining a separate school of theology, but a sufficient, though not the only answer is the exceptional value to a clergyman of association during his years of preparation with those who are to be his co-laborers in ministerial work. Herein also lies one explanation of the reluctance of many divinity students to attend a non-denominational school of theology, instead of a school frequented by men who are to be their nearest professional associates. Having committed ourselves to the non-denominational principle, we are under special obligation to develop an esprit de corps among our students. This, however, constitutes for us an exceedingly difficult problem on account of the peculiar conditions of our School. Denominational schools attract students with similar habits of thought, coming from homes where the same religious papers are read and the same religious leaders are honored, and by reason of these common interests and traditions, fellowship is easy and natural. Our School, however, has a company of students representing many denominations, among whom these points of contact are lacking and unless denominational coteries are formed -- a remedy which would be highly deplorable -- the men are apt to hold aloof from one another. This tendency towards disintegration is aided by the diversified attractions of a great university and great city. Furthermore a large number of our students (20% last year) are married, and living, as they must, outside the Hall, are less easily drawn into the common life. Moreover, many attend the School for but a single year, and the comparatively large number of new-comers are with difficulty incorporated into the life of the School by the few students who holdover from year to year. In the ordinary theological school, with three classes, about two-thirds of the students in any given year were members of the school during the previous year, but with us the proportion is almost exactly reversed. During file past year only 37% of the students primarily registered with us had been members of the School the year before. This indicates the difficulty of maintaining the corporate life of the School. In addition many of our students are mature men, coming here to pursue advanced studies who are eager to use to the utmost the opportunity often long coveted and dearly purchased, of a year at Harvard, and therefore can give but little time and strength to sustain the common life of the School. For these. reasons the problem of maintaining a vigorous school spirit, important for every school of theology, is especially important and peculiarly difficult for us. So far we have not been able satisfactorily to solve it, but the Divinity Club has been exceedingly helpful and deserves sincere gratitude for its loyal devotion to the interests of the School."