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Harvard Swim test???

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Replies to: Harvard Swim test???

  • jazzingjazzing 21 replies2 threads Junior Member
    The question came up today at Visitas. The swim test requirement was rescinded decades ago, but it still exists in lore.

    Harry Elkins WIdener died in the Titanic sinking (he supposedly drowned after jumping out of a life boat), and when his mother donated the money for the library that bears his name, it is said that she asked the college to require a swim test of all students.
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  • twoinanddonetwoinanddone 23274 replies17 threads Senior Member
    My high school had a swimming requirement. We selected the units we wanted to take from a wide variety of things but one of those units had to be swimming. They even provided the swimsuits. Sophomores and juniors also had to take one unit of square dancing, ballroom dance, and polka (which was really fun). After swimming and dance, you could pick from traditional things like volleyball and basketball, but also curling, bowling, golf, archery, and gymnastics.

    No one was exempt from PE. If you couldn't participate in sports or games, they'd find something for you to do. Every unit had a written test and you could grade the tests, pick up equipment, be a timer, have someone help you with the sport. Even those with broken bones and a cast still had to go to Gym, but they could put off the swimming requirement.
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  • skieuropeskieurope 39626 replies7195 threads Super Moderator
    Harry Elkins WIdener died in the Titanic sinking (he supposedly drowned after jumping out of a life boat), and when his mother donated the money for the library that bears his name, it is said that she asked the college to require a swim test of all students.
    Urban legend
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  • gibbygibby 10529 replies246 threads Senior Member
    FWIW: https://library.harvard.edu/libraries/widener#history
    The Harry Elkins Widener Memorial Library is Harvard University's flagship library.

    Built with a gift from Eleanor Elkins Widener, the library is a memorial to her son, Harry, Class of 1907. Harry was an enthusiastic young bibliophile who perished aboard the Titanic.

    It had been Harry's plan to donate his personal collection to the University once it provided a suitable alternative to the outdated and inadequate library then located in Gore Hall. Mrs. Widener fulfilled her son's dream by building a facility of monumental proportions, with over 50 miles of shelves and the capacity to hold over three million volumes.
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  • jazzingjazzing 21 replies2 threads Junior Member
    Harry Elkins Widener died in the Titanic. That is a fact.

    It's also true that the swim test existed and that the requirement was dropped years ago. I agree that the rest is urban legend -- his mother's bequest was not the reason for the swim test, and it's not clear that he jumped out of a lifeboat.
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  • skieuropeskieurope 39626 replies7195 threads Super Moderator
    To be clear, my comment about urban legend was related to the swim test being tied to the library bequest. I'm not disputing that Harry Elkins Widener died on the Titanic or that his mother made a gift to Harvard or that there is a Widener Library,
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