Facts about Harvard University aren’t hard to find. The prestigious school is the oldest higher education institution in the United States and also boasts the largest academic library in the world, along with many famous alums.
But a Harvard fact sheet won’t tell you about the time that a bunch of students were tricked into raising placards that spelled out “We Suck’’ at a Harvard-Yale football game. Daniel Andrew and his Hahvahd Tour will.
Andrew, now 31, started giving tours when he was a Harvard student in 2006. There weren’t any companies offering tours of the university besides the admissions office, and he noticed a void in the summer months. He filled the demand with a theatrical, “over-the-top’’ tour, he said, to give visitors insight into campus lore and legends, while also providing a broad overview of Harvard’s history.
The tour is entirely staffed by Harvard students who are trained on a script, but can include experiences that happened to them personally. Andrew was there for the Harvard-Yale football fiasco, where Yale students masquerading as a “Harvard pep squad’’ handed out placards to Harvard kids to spelled out the self-deprecating message.
The beginning of March marked The Hahvahd Tour’s 10-year anniversary, and Andrew gave us the scoop on its four most commonly asked questions.
1. Where is Harvard Yard?
“That’s always a big question, they want to see Harvard Yard,’’ Andrew said. “And that’s really where the tour begins.’’
After talking about the Yard and how the John Harvard statue is just pretty much all wrong (it says John Harvard was the founder, though he wasn’t, it lists the wrong date, and it probably isn’t even John Harvard since no one knew what he looked like when the statue was cast, Andrew said), a lot of tourists aren’t sure where to ask about next.
“They’re unaware of how expansive the campus is,’’ Andrew said. “Then [the tour’s] route brings them in such a way where they see most of the famous buildings and also get a taste of Harvard Square.’’
2. Where did Facebook start?
“[That question’s popularity] wasn’t the case when we started,’’ Andrew said. “You can see the evolution of our own popular culture in the last 10 years.’’
When he first started The Hahvahd tour, Andrew said the biggest question was about where Microsoft started. He’s since had to change the tour route to go past Kirkland House, where Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg lived.
3. How did you get into Harvard? Or: How can my kids get into Harvard?
A lot of tour-goers treat the Hahvahd Tour like an admissions tour, asking how the guides got in and what they or their kids can do to secure a spot. Since Hahvahd Tour guide is a popular on-campus job, the tour represents a wide range of the school’s social population, Andrew said.
“We have everyone from the writers of the Hasty Pudding theatrical shows to the quarterback of the football team working for us,’’ he said.
4. Why is Harvard considered “the best?’’
So many people from abroad hear about Harvard as the pinnacle of elite American education, Andrew said, and want the chance, once on the university’s prestigious soil, to understand why.
“Until that question was asked to me, I’d never really thought about it,’’ he said. “It’s just, ‘Oh, just because.’ So it’s exciting to go back and peel the layers of why.’’
Some of the reasoning is because of a “historic accident,’’ Andrew said: At some point, Massachusetts legislature forced Harvard to go from a public school to a private school, about 100 years before any other top institutions, giving Harvard a big head start for private funding.
The John Harvard statue in Harvard Yard.Kan Wu / Flickr
Dissecting Harvard’s history for his tour has given Andrew even more appreciation for his alma mater and the Cambridge community. Running tours is the only career he’s ever had, and he doesn’t plan to stop anytime soon. For The Hahvahd Tour’s 10th anniversary year, Andrew is launching a similar tour of MIT. He’s in the process of hiring and training MIT students right now, and plans to launch Memorial Day weekend in conjunction with Old Town Trolley Tours. In the meantime, check out The Hahvahd Tour’s schedule here.