Saturday, May 21, 2011


Just as Bob had a secret dream about the LLM tax program at NYU, I have dreamed since grad school of getting an English PhD at Columbia University. I can't remember how that dream originated, but maybe it has something to do with the fact that Columbia is the home of the Pulitzer Prize.  These days I figure my getting a PhD at Columbia is about as likely as my winning one of those Prizes, but it was still fun to finally see the campus in New York City.  The fifth oldest university in the United States, Columbia was established in 1754.  It is ranked 8th in the world by Academic Ranking of World Universities.  Columbia alumni, faculty, and staff have won 97 Nobel Prizes, more than any other university in the world.  An interesting bit of trivia is that the school is the birthplace of FM radio and the laser.

I love the engraved names above the columns--Homer, Herodotus, Sophocles, Plato, Aristotle, Demosthenes, Cicero, and Vergil--but where is Socrates?

The next stop on our Great Universities Tour was Yale in New Haven, Connecticut. Founded in 1701, it is the 3rd oldest university in the U.S.  Yale has a $16.7 BILLION endowment, the second largest academic library in the world, and 49 Nobel laureates.  Wow. Yale was ranked 10th in 2010 by Academic Ranking of World Universities, although U.S. News & World Report ranks it 3rd. As far as beauty goes, in our books it is tied for 1st place with Oxford University in England. Oxford is a bit more grandiose, but nothing is run-down at wealthy Yale. It oozes old money, not old buildings. We definitely took more pictures at Yale than at any other university we have visited.


Next stop: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, or MIT, founded in 1861 just down the road from Harvard University.  (It is incredible to think of the brain power in that section of Massachusetts.) MIT has a mere 77 Nobel Laureates and 50 National Medal of Science recipients affiliated with the university and was ranked 4th in the world by the Academic Ranking of World Universities in 2010.  I had no idea.

I loved this huge sculpture in front of one of the buildings at MIT:
Alchemist by Jaume Plensa, on loan to MIT for one year in honor of their 150th anniversary

It reminded me so much of this awesome self-portrait Andrew created in high school:
Plensa's sculpture was created in the last year or two.  I'm pretty sure he stole his idea from Andrew.

Our last stop was Harvard, founded in 1636 and the oldest institution of higher learning in the U.S.  Harvard is ranked as the top university in the world by the Academic Ranking of World Universities, and appears in the Top Ten (and usually the Top Three) of just about every list out there.  It also has the largest endowment of any university in the world ($27.4 BILLION in September 2010, and that's after a catastrophic $12 billion loss in 2008-2009) and claims to have the largest academic library in the world.

Harvard can (and does) boast among its alumni 8 U.S. Presidents and 62 living billionaires, the most of any university in the country on both counts. It is, however, associated with only 75 Nobel Laureates, which places in a mere 5th in Nobel rankings in the world (topped by Columbia, Cambridge, University of Chicago, and MIT), although 19 of those winners have been or have become faculty members.  Its alumni list reads like Who's Who in America and includes, among many other well-known personages, John Hancock, John Adams, John Quincy Adams, Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, W. E. B. DuBois, Teddy Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, T. S. Eliot, John F. Kennedy, e.e. cummings, Pierre Trudeau, Leonard Bernstein, Bill Gates, Al Gore, Yo Yo Ma, Tommy Lee Jones, George W. Bush, Mark Zuckerberg, and Barack Obama.

Seeing all these beautiful campuses and learning about their programs and their contributions to society has made me wonder why I never considered going anywhere but BYU.  I remember getting all kinds of college solicitation material from campuses all over the United States in the mail, but I never took any of it seriously.  I think getting into Ivy League schools was a little easier in 1978 than it is today, but I suppose our economic situation was a limiting factor, and in those days no one from my hometown ventured much further than Idaho for college. Going to the University of Utah for grad school seemed plenty exotic to me.  Now, however, I can understand the draw of this elite education. Wouldn't it be fun to audit a class or two at one of these great universities?  I would appreciate it so much more now than I would have at age 18.

I end with some fun quotes about Harvard.  Apparently there is more than one way of looking at the school.

Woody Allen: "Harvard makes mistakes too, you know.  Kissinger taught there."

Lyndon B. Johnson: "I don't believe I'll ever get credit for anything I do in foreign affairs, no matter how successful it is, because I didn't go to Harvard."

Frank Lloyd Wright: "Harvard takes perfectly good plums as students and turns them into prunes."

William F. Buckley: "I'd rather entrust the government of the United States to the first 400 people in the Boston telephone directory than to the faculty of Harvard University."

John F. Kennedy: "It might be said now that I have the best of both worlds, a Harvard education and a Yale degree."

Dave Barry: "Harvard University, according to the directory of the American Society of Colleges and Universities, is a 'type of weevil.'"


  1. Love some of those quotes, Judy -- particularly the John F. Kennedy. You always have the best travel posts! And I love the self portrait by Andrew -- I would enjoy seeing his artist statement on that piece. It intrigued me (and I'd like the sculpture that reminded you of it on my front lawn!)

  2. I don't know that I'd ever think to go to a famous university when I'm on vacation--thanks for opening my eyes to how interesting they are.

    Andrew's self-portrait is amazing!

  3. Having heard about those universities for years, it was nice to put some faces to the names. Some of the brightest people who've ever lived have walked those grounds.

  4. I'm glad you went to college in Utah. How would you have met Bob otherwise?

  5. I think that's why she was wishing she went to Columbia.

  6. Bob and I were destined to meet. Our ancestors were conspiring. But that's a story for another post.

  7. Another great post. Brings back memories of spending close to four hours in the Harvard Book Store with my brother when we were visiting Erin. I think I could go back and spend another four hours there - an amazing campus.


    PS: Would you be interested in the doctoral program @ the U of R? I'll do it if you'll do it!

  8. I almost went to Columbia! I was so close to committing there (they wanted me for volleyball) but I didn't think I was smart enough for that place! Scratch that I KNEW I wasn't! I'll always wonder what could have been, but be grateful I made the choice I did. Such a beautiful campus. Thanks for sharing pics. I hope to be able to travel someday and see great places like you and your husband do. I think it's awesome.

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