A running history of Patriot’s Day

Long-time Extension School instructor and alumnus Robert J. Allison, ALB ’87, PhD ’92, professor and chair of history at Suffolk University, shares a swift history on the origins and evolution of Patriot’s Day in Massachusetts. For those who prefer the audio-video version to the text below, Allison delivers his short, 7-minute history lesson here

As it was in the beginning

The Puritans left behind two holidays. They set aside a day in the fall to give thanks to God for the blessings of the year and for not exercising his judgment on them. They set aside a day in the spring for fasting and prayer, imploring God’s aid in the coming year, atoning for their sins, and imploring God not to exercise his judgment on them.

Both holidays persisted well into the nineteenth century as Thanksgiving, in November, and Fast Day, in April, became part of the official calendar. Thanksgiving was given a considerable boost during the Civil War when President Lincoln revived the custom, which Presidents Washington and Adams had begun, of proclaiming a national day of Thanksgiving. After the war, the national day of Thanksgiving became a time to spend with family and to give thanks for the blessings of life.

Fast Day, always in April, had a tougher time in a more secular age. We prefer counting our blessings to reflecting on our sins. By the 1880s, Massachusetts citizens were not spending Fast Day reflecting on their sins, but were spending what was often the first nice day of the year as a holiday—not a holy day—outdoors, with boat and  bicycle races, and a noticeable amount of public drinking. Something needed to be done. (more…)

April 16, 2012. Tags: , , , , , . Faculty, Holiday, In the news. Leave a comment.

2 big mistakes when filling out your NCAA bracket

Post by Kate N.

There’s nothing like March Madness. All of a sudden, teams I never followed all season play a huge role in my life. I hoop and holler for a winning score so my bracket can finally win in the office pool. But, alas, that’s not how it turns out.

I’ve been filling out brackets since my sophomore year in high school and always end up in the bottom 3 of the collective pool. Every year I stare morosely at my pitiful bracket and think of the couple hundred dollars I could have earned.

With the Sweet 16, Elite 8, and Final Four right around the corner I figured it was time I get some more expert advice. I asked Kevin Rader, instructor of the summer course Introduction to Quantitative Methods, where I’ve made mistakes in the past with my bracket, and how I can use math to help better my chances. (more…)

March 8, 2012. Tags: , , , , , , , . Hot topic, In the news. Leave a comment.

Taking a leap into Leap Day lore

by Liz M.

Did you know that there used to be two days in February designated for romance?

Postcard featuring women in Leap Year 1908 eagerly await their chance to propose.

Maidens eagerly await their chance to propose on Leap Day

That’s right, according to an old Irish legend, every four years on Leap Day, February 29, women were allowed to propose to men (imagine!). That means if you’re single, put a ring on it, ladies. And according to the legend, if any lad turned down his lass, he was obligated to buy her 12 pairs of gloves—a pair for every month to hide the embarrassment of not having an engagement ring.

Thankfully, gender roles have somewhat evolved since then, but it certainly got us thinking about all of the unusual quirks and lore surrounding Leap Day, including its history, why we need it, and how a proposed new calendar would keep every day the same each year.  (more…)

February 29, 2012. Tags: , , . Holiday, Hot topic, In the news. 1 comment.

American presidents share these key leadership qualities

Q&A with instructor John Paul Rollert

John Paul Rollert on presidential leadership qualities

John Paul Rollert

For President’s Day in an election year, we at the Spark blog thought it apropos to consider which leadership qualities are key to being president. We reached out to John Paul Rollert, a Harvard Extension School instructor and a doctoral student at the Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago.

Rollert, who teaches Principles and Lessons on Leadership, says that the key to presidential leadership is the ability to define the problems that need to be addressed.


February 20, 2012. Tags: , , . Faculty, Hot topic, In the news. 1 comment.

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