"Harvard of Harvard Here," announced the Boston Transcript when Lionel de Jersey Harvard stepped off the steamer Canadian in September 1911 to join the Harvard freshman class. The arrival of the eighteen-year-old Englishman caused quite a stir. He was the first of his family to enter the college named for his ancestor nearly three centuries earlier.
Born in Lewisham, England and raised in London, Lionel was the eldest son of Thomas M. Harvard, a descendant of Thomas Harvard, John Harvard's brother. Lionel came from a long line of scholars, many of them graduates of Emmanuel College, most of them ministers. Although he wished to follow in their footsteps and attend Emmanuel, his family could not afford to send him. When a group of Harvard alumni offered him the chance to go to Cambridge, Massachusetts, he readily accepted.
Despite the publicity and attention that followed Lionel, the undergraduate kept a level head. According to a 1968 account published in Harvard Magazine, Lionel's life as a student was typical of that of the period just before World War I: "In Cambridge, at least for many young men, the world seemed flooded with sunshine, happiness, and security." Well-liked by his classmates, Lionel was a good but not brilliant student, who participated in soccer, tennis, and rowing. He appeared in annual Elizabethan theatricals as a member of the D.U. Club, sang with the Glee Club, and volunteered for the Harvard Christian Association. In his junior year, he won the Poetry Prize with a recital of Alfred Noyes's "The Highwayman."
Immediately following his graduation in June 1915 -- at which he delivered the class poem -- Lionel returned to England. He married a childhood friend, May Barker, and in 1916, joined the Grenadier Guards, the oldest of the infantry regiments of the British Army. At the Battle of Somme, he was wounded in the chest. He recuperated and did light duty before returning to his battalion on the front lines in the spring of 1917.
In early March 1918, Lionel was put in command of Number One Company of the First Battalion, designated King's Company. "This was a high honor for a lieutenant, and usually a fatal one," according to Harvard Magazine. Lionel de Jersey Harvard was killed within the month, on March 30, 1918.
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