Remembering Joe

"To whom much was given, of him much will be required."

Noblesse oblige—it's in the Bible. I've never seen a stronger sense of this than I did in my teacher and friend Harold O. J. Brown, a Harvard  College graduate magna cum laude, Danforth and Fulbright fellow, coach of the Harvard rowing team the year it won the Henley Regatta, fluent in a number of modern languages, etc., etc. He had a strong sense of his giftedness, but what I think was seen as humility among those with whom he worked most of his life I would interpret as noblesse oblige, which isn't exactly the same thing.

Not that he wasn't genuinely humble, too—he understood perfectly well that we are to esteem others as greater than ourselves—but I did see signs that it wasn't exactly easy for him. Joe liked to belt out "Bow, bow, ye lower middle classes" from Iolanthe from time to time, and with some gusto. This, however, he would only do in the company of close friends, probably when lowliness of heart was getting to him and he was tired of dealing with exalted lowliness of brain.

S. M. Hutchens is a senior editor.

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