When the Haverford College International Council met in Paris last week, among the special guests at the opening dinner were four members of the Institut de France, and the chancellor of the Institut, Gabriel de Broglie. They were there to recognize the warm relationship Haverford forged with the organization in 2010, after the College returned a valuable letter written by 17th-century French philosopher René Descartes that had once belonged to the Institut.
Long thought lost, the letter had been stolen by a notorious document thief in the early 1800s and eventually ended up in the autograph collection of Charles Roberts, Haverford Class of 1864. Roberts’ widow bequeathed the enormous collection to the College more than 100 years ago, but until a Dutch researcher doing a late-night Google search turned it up in Special Collections—and the letter became the subject of an international news story—the rightful provenance of the Descartes letter had been unknown.
Then-President Stephen G. Emerson returned the letter to the Institut—a gesture that de Broglie said at the time, “exemplifies the depth of moral values that you instill in your students.”
At the recent dinner in Paris, which was hosted by Edouard and Eve Mercier P ’15 at the Automobile Club de France, de Broglie reaffirmed those fond feelings for Haverford.
Read more about the Descartes affair here.
Photos by Peet Simard.