Today, I got an email requesting my info for an alumni directory that is being compiled for Adams House, one of 12 residential houses where Harvard undergraduates live. The directory is going to be succinct: We’re each asked for a five-word bio and a web link, preferably to Wikipedia.
(You are in Wikipedia, aren’t you?)
Those aren’t the only specifications. Here’s the directory guidelines, with emphasis added:
- Your biographic description cannot be more than five words, and should generally describe your profession or overall accomplishments for posterity. I know it’s often hard for Harvardians to be succinct when describing themselves, but you’ll have to do your best! Specifics should be avoided in favour of durable, generic descriptions: “international fund manager” is preferable to “CFO of XX Corporation,” which may or may not be extant in 50 years.
- If applicable, the link you provide should be to a source with some permanence, such as Wikipedia. Personal sites are fine as well, if they are intended for long-term use. To be discouraged are corporate or other transient links that might change in a year or two, as we don’t have the manpower to continually update the database. (Revisions once a decade are planned.) If in doubt, no link is better than a fleeting one. For alumni no longer with us, an obituary link will be used if available.
- Everyone is actively encouraged to participate, even if you don’t feel you’ve (yet) done anything earth-shattering or famous. Responses like “Mother,” “Care-giver,” “Stay-at-Home Dad,” or “Graduate Student in Archaeology” are all great. Remember: there are infinite paths to personal success and happiness, and it is valuable for our current students to realise that many of us lead relatively normal lives after the pressure-cooker of Harvard.
- Your bio can be humorous if you so choose, but keep in mind it will be there for as long as there is an Internet, so use discretion. You may not make any call to action or judgment, such as “Creator of Best Frisbee Ever” or “World’s Most Famous Plastic Surgeon.” We reserve the right to edit all entries.
It’s a good thing I actually do have a Wikipedia page (which this spring survived an effort at deletion launched by a Bulgarian with lots of time on his hands) because a dead link in this directory would be a real disaster. And I’m glad for the reassurance that “there are infinite paths to personal success and happiness,” which I’m sure was necessary to protect the fragile egos of some of the people who recieved this email.
Once the directory is compiled, we’ll be able to see what notables and non-notables lived in the same rooms as us going back about 120 years. The inspiration for the directory is the fact that Franklin Roosevelt lived in Adams House as an undergraduate (his old suite is decked out with memorabilia, including remarkably whiny letters he wrote to his mother).
So, if you didn’t have enough reason to think Harvard people are insufferable, I just gave you another. You’re welcome.
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