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Renowned Harvard Professor Claims Privilege of Grazing Cow in Harvard Yard
On Thursday, September 10, a jubilant event will celebrate Harvey Cox's retirement as Hollis Professor of Divinity after 44 years of teaching at Harvard Divinity School and Harvard College.
The Hollis Chair is the oldest endowed chair in American higher education. A well-known legend attests to the Hollis Professor's privilege to graze his cow in Harvard Yard, and Cox will assert that right on September 10, borrowing a Jersey cow named Faith from the Farm School in Athol, Massachusetts, a working farm widely known in the sustainable farming movement.
At 4 pm on September 10, Faith will graze in the Tercentenary Theatre adjacent to the Memorial Church in the Yard, the very site where almost three centuries earlier, Edward Wigglesworth, the first Hollis Professor, and his son, the second Hollis Professor, grazed their cows.
At 4:30 pm, Peter Gomes, Pusey Minister in the Memorial Church and Plummer Professor of Christian Morals, will lead a half-hour ceremony honoring Cox, summarizing the historical evidence for the grazing privilege, and acknowledging the signal role of religion at Harvard from the seventeenth century to the present. In keeping with early Harvard practice, there will be a (humorous) Latin oration by Travis Stevens, a doctoral candidate at Harvard.
The celebrants, audience, and cow will then process to Harvard Divinity School, where Dean William A. Graham will open a second half-hour ceremony at 5:30 pm. Speakers will include William Martin, Emeritus Chavanne Professor of Religion and Public Policy at Rice University (and Professor Cox's first graduate student advisee at Harvard), and Diana Eck, Professor of Comparative Religion and Indian Studies and director of the Pluralism Project at Harvard, who will reflect on the significance of cows in world religions. The cow will then receive its evening milking.
A reception following the ceremonies will feature jazz and swing classics played by Soft Touch, a 17-piece band in which Cox plays tenor sax.
HarperCollins has adjusted the publication date of Cox's forthcoming book, The Future of Faith—which forecasts a new Age of the Spirit of global scope—to coincide with the events of September 10.
Thomas Hollis, a wealthy London merchant and a Baptist, endowed the Hollis Chair in 1721 and asked that there be no doctrinal requirements for appointments to it. Harvard's greatest patron in the eighteenth century, he also gave substantial contributions to the library, scholarships for tutors and students, a powerful telescope, and a second endowed chair in science. Cox is the ninth to hold the Chair in Divinity, and the second Baptist.