Julio Frenk with the time capsule

From the depths of time: Dean Frenk speaks to his successor in 2063

Among the ways Harvard School of Public Health is marking its Centennial is the creation of a time capsule that will be embedded in the wall of the FXB building for the next 50 years—until 2063. Along with the program book for last month’s two-day celebration, the capsule will include a number of other mementos and items likely to be of historic interest five decades from now.  One of these is a note from Dean Julio Frenk to the School’s future dean.

Dear Dean of Harvard School of Public Health in 2063,

Fifty years ago we thought it appropriate to mark the Centennial of your School with a time capsule containing different expressions of our attempt to commemorate the past by reaching out to the future.

I expect that when you read this letter you will be celebrating the Sesquicentennial of HSPH. You see, I suffer from a self-diagnosed case of chronophobia—the keen, almost painful awareness of the passage of time. Celebrating anniversaries is a way of dealing with the anxiety provoked by such awareness. Indeed, every milestone that is reached successfully represents a paradoxical triumph over our chronological frailty.

This is particularly clear in the efforts to build and strengthen institutions, which we humans have devised as vehicles to transcend the temporal nature of our physical existence. In the process of institution-building, each generation has one overriding responsibility: to safeguard the legacy it has received from previous generations and hand it enriched to the next one. Hopefully, you will conclude that my generation lived up to this utmost obligation.

From the depths of time, please receive the best wishes and warm regards of your predecessor,

Dean Julio Frenk

Photo: Kent Dayton

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