A Toast, of sorts, to Erwin Griswold
I read Dean Griswold's autobiography shortly after it was published in 1992, when he was nearly 90, and I'd been working at HLS for about two years. Among other things I learned from it was that his parents had been ardent prohibitionists, and he'd never served alcohol at his home.
I ran into him and told him that when I became a student in Harvard's History of American Civilization doctoral program in 1978, the only beverage served at its semi-social gatherings was sherry. I suggested to one of the professors in charge that some of us might prefer beer and some might want something non-alcoholic. The practice changed. I thought he might be pleased, but he misunderstood me and thought I was yet another critic who thought that he should have served alcohol as dean!
In later years, when about to leave HLS to go to Harvard Square for a few minutes, if I was carrying a drink I didn't want to take with me, I'd stash it inside the bust of Dean Griswold in the building named for him--but it was always coffee or water, nothing alcoholic.
Many people don't realize that Dean Griswold was responsible for building the tunnels at HLS, which were ridiculed by some when new but have been a blessing to many of us, especially when the weather is bad.
Erwin Griswold earned his undergraduate degree at Oberlin College as a member of its class of 1925. I did the same in the class of 1968, before coming to Harvard to earn a Master of Arts in Teaching. Sometime before 1971, I attended a meeting of Oberlin alums at Harvard, partly to try to persuade former-Dean Griswold, who'd been a member of Oberlin's Board of Trustees for many years, that the college should take an institutional stand against President Johnson's continuation of the war in Vietnam. Griswold didn't think that was a good idea--not surprisingly, especially considering that he was serving as LBJ's solicitor general.
The architect who designed what is now the Lewis International Law Center had purposely designed its east wall without any windows. Dean Griswold suggested that the staff working in its offices would probably appreciate some natural light. The architect gave way. Unfortunately, I work in one of the interior offices with no windows.