As reported on page 1, the special showing last Friday of director Greta Gerwig’s “Little Women” was a smashing success, drawing 343 enthusiastic Harvard citizens to the Maynard Fine Arts Theatre to see the final product of a movie that was filmed, in part, in the center of town. The ebullient crowd, many of whom had arrived an hour early to get a good seat, quickly grew silent at the movie’s start, but greeted each glimpse of a Harvard venue with enthusiastic applause. The crowd also responded with hearty hand-clapping for Lisa Foley, who introduced the movie as chair of the event’s sponsor, the Warner Free Lecture Trust. The evening was an Oscar-worthy performance by the trustees, a crowning achievement in a long and distinguished career.
The founding of the 129-year-old trust, by Harvard native Henry Warner, was accepted by the attendees of Town Meeting in 1891 with a gratitude akin to the joyful audience reaction to “Little Women” at last Friday’s event. “The town accepted—the vote being unanimous and taken standing—the generous donation [$10,000] from Henry L. Warner,” according to the 1894-published account of the trust’s inception in “History of the Town of Harvard, Massachusetts” by Henry S. Nourse.
The lecture series we now enjoy, almost always presented at the Harvard Public Library on a Friday evening, may well be a cherished part of a Harvard weekend to those attuned to local events. But for those most recently awakened to, or reminded of, the virtues and socially joyous occasion of a Warner Free lecture, let us resolve in the New Year to crowd another event put forth by the trust, an entity engendered by a long-dead citizen, powered by an active, elected board of trustees, and meant to be kept alive by all of us.