Harvard University is an American private Ivy League research university located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States, established in 1636 by the Massachusetts legislature. Harvard is the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States and the first corporation (officially The President and Fellows of Harvard College) chartered in the country. Harvard’s history, influence, and wealth have made it one of the most prestigious universities in the world.
Harvard was named after its first benefactor, John Harvard. Although never formally affiliated with a church, the college primarily trained Congregationalist and Unitarian clergy. Harvard’s curriculum and students became secular throughout the 18th century and by the 19th century had emerged as the central cultural establishment among Boston elites. Following the American Civil War, President Charles W. Eliot’s forty year tenure (1869–1909) transformed the college and affiliated professional schools into a centralized research university, and Harvard became a founding member of the Association of American Universities in 1900. James Bryant Conant led the university through the Great Depression and World War II and began to reform the curriculum and liberalize admissions after the war. The undergraduate college became coeducational after its 1977 merger with Radcliffe College. Drew Gilpin Faust was elected the 28th president in 2007 and is the first woman to lead the university. Harvard has the largest financial endowment of any academic institution in the world, standing at $32 billion as of September 2011.
The university comprises eleven separate academic units—ten faculties and the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study—with campuses throughout the Boston metropolitan area. Harvard’s 210-acre (85 ha) main campus is centered on Harvard Yard in Cambridge, approximately 3.4 miles (5.5 km) northwest of downtown Boston. The business school and athletics facilities, including Harvard Stadium, are located across the Charles River in Allston and the medical, dental, and public health schools are located in the Longwood Medical Area.
As of 2010, Harvard employs about 2,100 faculty to teach and advise approximately 6,700 undergraduates (Harvard College) and 14,500 graduate and professional students. Eight U.S. presidents have been graduates, and 75 Nobel Laureates have been student, faculty, or staff affiliates. Harvard is also the alma mater of sixty-two living billionaires, the most in the country. The Harvard University Library is the largest academic library in the United States, and one of the largest in the world.
The Harvard Crimson competes in 41 intercollegiate sports in the NCAA Division I Ivy League. Harvard has an intense athletic rivalry with Yale University traditionally culminating in The Game, although the Harvard–Yale Regatta predates the football game. This rivalry, though, is put aside every two years when the Harvard and Yale Track and Field teams come together to compete against a combined Oxford University and Cambridge University team, a competition that is the oldest continuous international amateur competition in the world.