Documents from Special Collections about Harris Wofford

Harris Wofford: A Time Capsule

Special Collections documents offer a glimpse of history.

Like a Mawrter, I immersed myself in Canaday Library’s Special Collections, digging into archive boxes of materials from the office Harris Wofford once occupied on the second floor of Taylor Hall.

This ephemera of his presidency is a time capsule of the 1970s, offering a glimpse of the mortar and minutiae of running a women’s college: a circa 1920s Bryn Mawr Songbook; a 1978 copy of The News reporting the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board’s crackdown on campus underage drinking; a black binder labeled “Haverford,” thick with Bi-College Committee reports; and a magazine article on college women’s attitudes about sex and cohabitation. One box contains files for the seminar course he taught on Law and Civil Disobedience: his handwritten notes on Socrates, Thoreau, Gandhi, and King; a slip of paper that says, “…again touched by the better angels of our nature,” and another that bears a single word, “Watergate.” There’s a black-and-white image of Wofford at his desk, confirming the truth of the jocular comment he made during our conversation at Pen y Groes: “Katharine McBride (his predecessor) faced the hall to keep an eye on the faculty, but I always faced the window.”   

Opening these boxes releases a musty scent of nostalgia—for an age of private deliberation, of speech drafts penned on paper and then typed clean, of commemorative documents printed, bound, and circulated by hand. It’s tempting to believe that this is another college entirely and not—as reason reminds me—a point on Bryn Mawr’s trajectory to 2017, the year the College welcomed the most selective class in three decades and offered new majors in international and environmental studies, and an interdisciplinary 360° course cluster in Climate Change: Science and Policy.