Harvard University is a private Ivy League research university in Cambridge, Massachusetts whose history, influence and wealth have made it one of the most prestigious universities in the world.
Established in 1636 by the Massachusetts legislature and soon thereafter named for John Harvard (its first benefactor), Harvard is the United States' oldest institution of higher learning, and the Harvard Corporation (formally, the President and Fellows of Harvard College ) is its first chartered corporation. Although never formally affiliated with any denomination, the early College primarily trained Congregationalist and Unitarian clergy. Its curriculum and student body were gradually secularized during the 18th century, and by the 19th century Harvard had emerged as the central cultural establishment among Boston elites. Following the American Civil War, President Charles W. Eliot's long tenure (1869–1909) transformed the college and affiliated professional schools into a modern research university; Harvard was a founding member of the Association of American Universities in 1900. James Bryant Conant led the university through the Great Depression and World War II and began to reform the curriculum and liberalize admissions after the war. The undergraduate college became coeducational after its 1977 merger with Radcliffe College. Drew Gilpin Faust was elected the 28th president in 2007 and is the first woman to lead the university.
Nowadays, the University comprises various academic institutions and has nurtured many prominent alumni. It is organized into eleven separate academic units—ten faculties and the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study—with campuses throughout the Boston metropolitan area. Harvard's 209-acre (85 ha) main campus is centered on Harvard Yard in Cambridge, approximately 3 miles (4.8 km) northwest of Boston. The business school and athletics facilities, including Harvard Stadium, are located across the Charles River in the Allston neighborhood of Boston and the medical, dental, and public health schools are located in the Longwood Medical Area. Eight U.S. presidents have been graduates, and some 150 Nobel Laureates have been affiliated as students, faculty, or staff. Harvard is also the alma mater of sixty-two living billionaires, the most in the country. The Harvard University Library is also the largest academic library in the United States, and one of the largest in the world.
The Harvard Crimson competes in 42 intercollegiate sports in the NCAA Division I Ivy League.
Harvard has the largest financial endowment of any academic institution in the world, standing at $30 billion as of September 2012.