Still Tiny, Still Intimate
Statement by Thomas H. Garver '56
I have tried to put into words why my experience at Haverford was so important to me, but, like so much of my life, the reasons lie just beyond my touch. For me, one of the most important qualities is the College's "intimacy." It's a word that is all too often used in just a physical sense, but in Haverford's case, the word is entwined within the College's Latin motto (non doctior sed meliore doctrina imbutus), translated as "not more learned, but imbued with better learning." The word "imbued" suggests the opposite of being "taught" or "instructed." It implies that every aspect of the environment is important in the learning process, and those Quakers of yore recognized and acknowledged this ideal from the moment the school was founded.
Other than Haverford, I have attended or served four universities, and the differences between the College and these other institutions might seem subtle, but they are substantial. At Haverford, the "infusion" of knowledge seemed then (as now) to take place everywhere, not just in the classroom. In the 1950s, we were given what for the time was remarkable responsibility for the management of the social and academic parts of our lives. In conversations with students on my recent visit to campus, I was pleased to see that this continues. One person to whom I spoke described the environment as being "rigorous, but not competitive in a way that hurts students. There is not a lot of emphasis on getting a good grade because the environment isn't grade oriented. The classes are more about what you take away from them than a letter grade." Much of this rigor comes from the faculty, many of whom seem to regard the task of imbuing the students with learning as more of a calling than a career, and it is perhaps here that the College's intimacy is centered.
I have often thought about what I might do to return to Haverford what it gave to me. I can't resist those softly spoken year-end phone calls made by students asking for my support, and year on year I've given a little cash, along with a number of historic and contemporary photographs, which I have collected for many years. The photos have entered a now-impressive collection, built over a 40-year period by William Earle Williams, the Audrey A. and John L. Dusseau Professor in Humanities and Professor of Fine Arts. Willie is one of those people who has been called to his profession, both as a photographer and as a teacher, and he works in a department that was not only nonexistent in the 1950s, but was as unimaginable then as the now (glorious) presence of female students.
Recently, there has been a significant change in my life circumstances which has allowed me to promise a substantially larger legacy gift to Haverford, namely, the creation of a scholarship fund to support students from rural areas, towns, and small cities in the upper Midwest. Haverford may be three times the size it was in the 1950s, but it is still a tiny place. If word about the College reaches qualified students in this part of the country, I would hope that they might know that their attendance at Haverford has been modestly supported by someone who wishes to acknowledge them and the region that created them.
Tom Garver has been involved with modern and contemporary American art for more than 50 years. He served as assistant director of Brandeis University's Rose Art Museum, curator of exhibitions at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, and director of what is now the Orange County (CA) Museum of Art and the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art in Wisconsin, where he now resides. A native of Duluth, Minnesota, Tom majored in psychology at Haverford before earning an M.A. in art history at the University of Minnesota. While at Haverford, Tom made a formative connection with the photographer O. Winston Link, who had been commissioned to take photographs of the College, and after graduation worked as his assistant. Tom's book, The Last Steam Railroad in America (2nd edition, Abrams 2008) is a definitive study of Link's steam locomotion photographs of the 1950s. Tom has gifted many of Link's photographs to Haverford.