Published online by Cambridge University Press: 02 May 2020
Though I was not naturally a very good
student, I had a fine education.
Thompson spent four years as an undergraduate at Harvard College, class of 1920. These years saw significant disruption when the United States entered World War I, and he served in the Naval Reserve in 1917-18 while a student. As will be seen, his undergraduate years were full of musical and social dis¬coveries, on the one hand, and by precarious grades and academic probation during the second semester of his sophomore year on the other. Following graduation “Cum Laude Musicae” in June 1920 he took a year off from aca¬demic life moving to New York City in order to take twenty private lessons with the renowned composer Ernest Bloch (1880-1959) before returning to Cambridge in September 1921 to earn his A. M. degree from Harvard and complete his formal education in spring 1922.
FRESHMAN YEAR 1916-17
The summer following graduation from the Lawrenceville School found Thompson busy as usual. His family did some travelling to Granby Notch, Connecticut and Hog Island, Maine before gathering in Cambridge to settle him into his assigned room (A21) in Harvard's Persis Smith Hall. On September 25, 1916, while there, Thompson's father paid a courtesy visit to Professor Walter Spalding, Chair of the Department of Music and schedul¬ing advisor to incoming music students. Three weeks later Grace noted in her diary, “Ran happy at Harvard.”
Harvard's academic year customarily began in late September, broke for the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, with classes resuming in early January. First semester exams took place in late January and the initial weeks of February. After a break around Easter, the year concluded with examina¬tions in mid-June followed by commencement and summer vacation. As will be seen, however, the entry into World War I by the United States dramati¬cally altered this schedule.
Members of the class of 1920 and other new students were welcomed at a reception given by the St. Paul's Society and the Parish of Christ Church in their parish house on Garden Street, and at the official Harvard greeting on the 27th at Phillips Brooks House.