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A Defining Moment of Vulnerability
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Getting to Know Class Day Student Speaker Claire Wagner
History and traditions of Harvard commencements
What was originally called Harvard Colledge (around which Harvard University eventually grew) held its first Commencement in September 1642, when nine degrees were conferred. Today some 1700 undergraduate degrees, and 5000 advanced degrees from the university's various graduate and professional schools, are conferred each Commencement Day.
Each degree candidate attends three ceremonies: the Morning Exercises, at which degrees are conferred verbally en masse; a smaller midday ceremony (at the candidate's professional or graduate school, or undergraduate House) at which diplomas are given in hand; and, in the afternoon, the annual meeting of the Harvard Alumni Association, at which Harvard's President and the day's featured speaker deliver their addresses.
Several hundred[clarification needed] Harvard honorary degrees (which with few exceptions must be accepted in person) have been awarded since the first was bestowed on Benjamin Franklin in 1753. In 1935 playwright George Bernard Shaw declined nomination for a Harvard honorary degree, urging instead that Harvard celebrate its three-hundredth anniversary by "burning itself to the ground ... as an example to all the other famous old corrupters of youth" such as Yale.
The ceremonies shifted from late summer to late June in the nineteenth century,[note 1] and are now held at the end of May. A number of unusual traditions have attached to them over the centuries, including the arrival of certain dignitaries on horseback, occupancy by Harvard's president of the Holyoke Chair (a "bizarre" sixteenth-century contraption prone to tipping over) and the welcoming of newly minted bachelors to "the fellowship of educated men and women."
Most upperclass Houses have preliminary rituals of their own. At Lowell House, for example, a perambulating bagpiper alerts seniors at 6:15 am for a 6:30 breakfast in the House dining hall with members of the Senior Common Room, after which all process (along with members of Eliot House, who have been similarly roused) to Memorial Church for a chapel service at 7:45.
Morning Exercises are held in the central green of Harvard Yard (known as Tercentenary Theatre); the dais is before the steps of Memorial Church, facing Widener Library.[note 2] Some 32,000 people attend the event, including university officials, civic dignitaries, faculty, honorees, alumni, family and guests. Degree candidates wear cap and gown or other academic regalia (see Academic regalia of Harvard University).
The first to enter are candidates for graduate and professional degrees, followed by alumni and alumnae. Candidates for undergraduate degrees enter next, traditionally removing headgear as they pass the John Harvard statue en route. Finally comes the President's Procession, as follows:
On the dais the President occupies the Holyoke Chair, an uncomfortable and treacherous Elizabethanturned chair reserved for such ceremonies since at least 1770 (when it was already some two hundred years old). Called "bizarre ... with a complex frame and top-heavy superstructure", its "square framework set on the single rear post makes [it] tip over easily to either side."  A stabilizing "fin" was added at the rear sometime in the 20th century.
"It was just uncomfortable. I don’t know how to describe it," recalled Derek Bok, Harvard's 25th president (1971–1991), whose mother embroidered a "much-needed" cushion. Said the Harvard Gazette in 2007:
When the chair holds its robed occupant, onlookers cannot detect the odd geometry by which its triangular seat points toward a square back rippling with knobby dowels and finials. Perhaps by striking their own precarious balance in this strange seat of authority, the successors of Edward Holyoke [Harvard's president 1737–1769] come to sense what the job is all about.[note 6]
At the University Marshal's call ("Mister Sheriff, pray give us order") the Middlesex Sheriff takes to the dais, strikes it thrice with the butt of his staff, and intones, "The meeting will be in order."  Three student speakers (Undergraduate English, Undergraduate Latin, and Graduate English) are introduced and deliver their addresses.[clarification needed]
Then, according to the order in which the various graduate and professional schools were created, the dean of each school steps forward to present, en masse, that school's degree candidates. Each group stands for the President's incantation conferring their degrees, which is followed by a traditional welcome or exhortation: doctoral graduates, for example, are welcomed "to the ancient and universal company of scholars", while law graduates are reminded to "aid in the shaping and application of those wise restraints that make us free." Last to be graduated are the Bachelor's candidates, who are then welcomed to "the fellowship of educated men and women." 
Honorary degrees are then bestowed. Finally, all rise to sing "The Harvard Hymn", expressing the hope (Integri sint curatores, Eruditi professores, Largiantur donatores—printed lyrics are supplied) that the trustees, faculty and benefactors will manifest (respectively) integrity, wisdom, and generosity. After a benediction is said, the Middlesex Sheriff declares the ceremony closed and the President's Procession departs.
Once the dais is clear the Harvard Band strikes up and the Memorial Church bell commences to peal, joined by bells throughout Cambridge for most of the following hour.[note 7]
After the Morning Exercises, each graduate or professional school, and each upperclass House, holds a smaller ceremony (with luncheon) at which its member-graduates are called forward by name to receive their diplomas in hand.
Alumni Association meeting and afternoon addresses
At the afternoon meeting of the Harvard Alumni Association, the President and the Commencement Day speaker deliver their addresses.
US Secretary of State (and former Army general) George C. Marshall's 1947 address as Commencement Day Speaker famously outlined a plan (soon known as the Marshall Plan, and for which he would later be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize) for the economic revival of post-World War II Europe.
"Our fathers ... closely associated the thirst for learning and that for beer", a 1924 Harvard history observed, so that (a modern survey continued) the sheriffs' presence at Commencements "has a practical origin. Feasting, drinking, and merrymaking at earlier commencements often got out of hand. Fights were not unheard of", and commencements in various years have featured two-headed calves, an elephant, and Indians-versus-scholars archery competitions. Such goings-on were sufficiently common knowledge that in 1749, Bostonian William Douglass explained to a general readership that the siege and capture of Louisbourg had been "carried on in a tumultuary random Manner, and resembled a Cambridge Commencement." 
Thus in 1781,
For the prevention of Disorders on Commencement day, [the Corporation] voted that the Honble Henry Gardner Esq: and the Honble Abraham Fuller Esq: Justices of the Peace thro' the State, and Loammi Baldwin Esq: Sheriff of the County of Middlesex, be requested to give their attendance on that day ...
Earlier measures had included the 1693 banning of plum cake—the enjoyment of which, officials asserted, was unknown at other universities, "dishonourable to ye Colledge, not gratefull to Wise men, and chargable to [i.e. the fault of] ye Parents". This was one of many efforts by Increase Mather (Harvard's president from 1692 to 1701) toward "Reformation of those excesses ... [of] Commencement day and weeke at the Colledge, [sic] so that I might [prevent] disorder and profaneness" —for Harvard officials a recurring headache.[note 8]
To curb unseemly sartorial displays of wealth and social status[clarification needed] the 1807 Laws of Harvard College provided that, on Commencement day,
[E]very Candidate for a first degree shall be clothed in a black gown, or in a coat of blue grey, a dark blue, or a black color; and no one shall wear any silk nightgown, on said day, nor any gold or silver lace, cord, or edging upon his hat, waistcoat, or any other part of his clothing, in the College, or town of Cambridge.
George Bernard Shaw
Responding to the prospect of being nominated for an honorary degree on the occasion of Harvard's Tercentenary celebration in 1936, George Bernard Shaw wrote:
Dear Sir, I have to thank you for your proposal to present me as a candidate for an honorary degree of D.L.[clarification needed] of Harvard University at its tri-centenary celebration. But I cannot pretend that it would be fair for me to accept university degrees when every public reference of mine to our educational system, and especially to the influence of the universities on it, is fiercely hostile. If Harvard would celebrate its three hundredth anniversary by burning itself to the ground and sowing its site with salt, the ceremony would give me the greatest satisfaction as an example to all the other famous old corrupters of youth, including Yale, Oxford, Cambridge, the Sorbonne, etc. Under these circumstances I should let you down very heavily if you undertook to sponsor me.
A handwritten postscript read: "I appreciate the friendliness of your attitude." 
- 2021: Ruth Simmons, president of Prairie View A&M University, president emerita of both Brown University and Smith College
- 2020: Martin Baron, editor of The Washington Post
- 2019: Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany – (video)
- 2018: John Lewis, civil rights activist and US representative representing Georgia
- 2017: Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook
- 2016: Steven Spielberg, film director, producer, and screenwriter – (video; text)
- 2015: Deval Patrick, 71st Governor of Massachusetts – (video)
- 2014: Michael Bloomberg, businessman and philanthropist, former Mayor of New York City – (video; audio; text)
- 2013: Oprah Winfrey, businesswoman and talk show host – (video; audio; text)
- 2012: Fareed Zakaria, journalist, author, former TIME editor – ("We Live in an Age of Progress" video; text)
- 2011: Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, 24th President of Liberia – (video)
- 2010: David Souter, former Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court (video; text)
- 2009: Steven Chu, former United States Secretary of Energy (video; text)
- 2008: J. K. Rowling, author, Harry Potter series – ("The Fringe Benefits of Failure, and the Importance of Imagination" video; text)
- 2007: Bill Gates, Microsoft co-founder – ("Great Expectations" video; text)
- 2006: Jim Lehrer, author and journalist – (video)
- 2005: John Lithgow, actor and author – ("An Actor's Own Words" text)
- 2004: Kofi Annan, 7th Secretary-General of the United Nations ("Three Crises, and the Need for American Leadership" text)
- 2003: Ernesto Zedillo, 54th President of Mexico
- 2002: Daniel Patrick Moynihan, former US senator representing New York ("Civilization Need Not Die")
- 2001: Robert Rubin, 70th United States Secretary of the Treasury
- 2000: Amartya Sen, economist and Professor of Economics and Philosophy, Harvard University ("Global Doubts")
- 1999: Alan Greenspan, 13th Chairman of the Federal Reserve (text)
- 1998: Mary Robinson, former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and 7th President of Ireland (text)
- 1997: Madeleine Albright, 64th United States Secretary of State (text)
- 1996: Harold E. Varmus, scientist and Director of the National Institutes of Health (text)
- 1995: Václav Havel, last President of Czechoslovakia and 1st President of the Czech Republic ("Radical Renewal of Human Responsibility" text)
- 1994: Al Gore, 45th Vice President of the United States (video; text)
- 1993: Colin Powell, 12th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (video; excerpts)
- 1992: Gro Harlem Brundtland, Prime Minister of Norway
- 1991: Derek Bok, 25th President of Harvard University (text)
- 1990: Helmut Kohl, Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany
- 1989: Benazir Bhutto, 11th Prime Minister of Pakistan ("Democratic Nations Must Unite" video; text)
- 1988: Óscar Arias, President of Costa Rica and 1987 Nobel Peace Prize recipient
- 1987: Richard von Weizsäcker, President of the Federal Republic of Germany
- 1986: Peter Carington, 6th Baron Carrington, 6th Secretary General of NATO
- 1985: Paul Volcker, economist and 12th Chairman of the Federal Reserve (text)
- 1984: Juan Carlos I, King of Spain
- 1983: Carlos Fuentes, author and diplomat
- 1982: John Huston Finley, Professor of Greek Literature Emeritus, Harvard University
- 1981: Thomas Watson Jr., businessman and diplomat, President of IBM, 11th President of the Boy Scouts of America, 16th United States Ambassador to the Soviet Union
- 1980: Cyrus Vance, 57th United States Secretary of State
- 1979: Helmut Schmidt, Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany
- 1978: Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Nobel Prize-winning novelist ("A World Split Apart" video; audio; text)
- 1977: Barbara Jordan, US Representative representing Texas (text)
- 1976: Daniel Patrick Moynihan, US senator representing New York
- 1975: Archibald Cox, Harvard Law School Professor of Law
- 1974: Ralph Ellison, novelist
- 1973: Rev. Theodore Hesburgh, President of the University of Notre Dame
- 1972: Roy Jenkins, former Deputy Leader of the Labour Party
- 1971: Alan Paton, South African novelist
- 1970: Antonio Carrillo Flores, former Mexican Secretary of Foreign Affairs
- 1969: Jean Rey, Belgian politician and 2nd President of the European Commission
- 1969: Stewart Udall, 37th United States Secretary of the Interior
- 1968: Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, Shah of Iran (excerpts)
- 1967: Edwin O. Reischauer, diplomat and Harvard professor
- 1966: W. Averell Harriman, businessman, politician, and diplomat
- 1965: Adlai Stevenson II, 31st Governor of Illinois and 5th United States Ambassador to the United Nations
- 1964: Alberto Lleras Camargo, 20th President of Colombia
- 1963: U Thant, 3rd Secretary-General of the United Nations
- 1962: William McChesney Martin, 9th Chairman of the Federal Reserve (text)
- 1962: Lionel Trilling, Professor of English, Columbia University
- 1961: Alec Douglas-Home, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, United Kingdom
- 1961: F. Cyril James, Vice Chancellor, McGill University
- 1960: Robert Menzies, 12th Prime Minister of Australia
- 1960: Paul-Henri Spaak, 2nd Secretary General of NATO
- 1959: Pieter Geyl, Dutch historian and Utrecht University professor
- 1959: C. Douglas Dillon, 21st United States Under Secretary of State
- 1958: Neil H. McElroy, 6th United States Secretary of Defense
- 1958: Raymond Aron, French historian and journalist
- 1957: Erwin Panofsky, art historian
- 1957: Barbara Ward, British economist
- 1956: Herbert Butterfield, British historian and University of Cambridge professor
- 1956: John F. Kennedy, US senator representing Massachusetts (text)
- 1955: Luis Muñoz Marín, Puerto Rican poet, journalist, and politician
- 1955: Konrad Adenauer, Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany
- 1954: Henry Cabot Lodge, former US senator representing Massachusetts
- 1954: Robert Schuman, former Prime Minister of France
- 1954: Grayson L. Kirk, political scientist and 14th President of Columbia University
- 1953: John P. Marquand, Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist
- 1953: Lester B. Pearson, Canadian statesman and historian
- 1952: John Foster Dulles, US senator representing New York
- 1952: Joseph S. Clark Jr., lawyer and politician
- 1951: Thornton Wilder, playwright and novelist
- 1951: Warren Austin, US senator representing Vermont, 2nd United States Ambassador to the United Nations
- 1951: Charles Edward Wilson, President of General Electric
- 1950: Dean Acheson, statesman and lawyer
- 1950: Ralph Flanders, US senator representing Vermont
- 1950: Carlos P. Romulo, Filipino Minister of Foreign Affairs
- 1949: Ralph Bunche, political scientist
- 1949: Lucius D. Clay, Jr., General of the United States Army
- 1949: Sir Oliver Franks, Baron Franks, Ambassador of the United Kingdom to the United Nations
- 1948: Trygve Lie, 1st Secretary-General of the United Nations
- 1947: George Marshall, 50th United States Secretary of State ("What Must Be Done?" text)
- 1946: Maurice J. Tobin, 6th United States Secretary of Labor
- 1945: C. D. Howe, Canadian Minister of Munitions and Supply
- 1945: Sir Alexander Fleming, Scottish scientist
- 1945: Ernest King, Fleet Admiral, United States Navy
- 1944: Walter Lippmann, journalist
- 1943: Joseph Grew, 13th United States Ambassador to Japan
- 1943: Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
- 1942: Henry L. Stimson, 45th United States Secretary of War
- 1942: Frederick Paul Keppel, former President of Carnegie Corporation of New York
- 1942: Raymond Gram Swing, journalist
- 1942: Frank Knox, 47th United States Secretary of the Navy
- 1941: Edward Wood, 3rd Viscount Halifax, Ambassador of the United Kingdom to the United States
- 1941: Clarence Addison Dykstra, Chairman of the National Defense Board
- 1941: Vannevar Bush, National Defense Research Committee
- 1940: Robert Sproul, 11th President of the University of California
- 1940: Carl Sandburg, author and poet
- 1940: Cordell Hull, 47th United States Secretary of State
- 1938: John Buchan, 1st Baron Tweedsmuir, Scottish novelist and historian, 15th Governor General of Canada
- 1934: Harold W. Dodds, 15th President of Princeton University
- 1934: Charles F. Martin, President of McGill University
- 1933: Sir Ronald Lindsay, British civil servant and diplomat
- 1931: Sir James Salter, author and political scientist
- 1929: Ernest Barker, political scientist
- 1927: Josiah Stamp, 1st Baron Stamp, British civil servant
- 1926: Arthur Currie, General of the Canadian Corps
- 1924: Owen D. Young, businessman, Dawes Commission
- 1923: William Lyon Mackenzie King, Canadian politician
- 1918: Rufus Isaacs, 1st Earl of Reading, British politician
- 1917: Cecil Spring Rice, Ambassador of the United Kingdom to the United States of America
- 1914: David F. Houston, 5th United States Secretary of Agriculture
- 1914: Sir Charles Fitzpatrick, 5th Chief Justice of Canada
- 1910: George Walter Prothero, British writer and historian
- 1909: Sir Napier Shaw, British meteorologist
- 1907: James Bryce, British historian, statesman, and diplomat (excerpts)
- 1904: Henry Cabot Lodge, US senator representing Massachusetts
- 1904: Baron Kaneko Kentarō, Japanese envoy to the United States
- 1904: William Osler, Canadian physician
- 1900: Julian Pauncefote, 1st Baron Pauncefote, British diplomat
- 1898: John Campbell-Gordon, 7th Earl of Aberdeen, British politician
- 1890: Leslie Stephen, British author and literary critic
- 1886: Lyon Playfair, 1st Baron Playfair, British politician
- 1884: Richard Claverhouse Jebb, British classical scholar and politician
- 1878: Frederick Hamilton-Temple-Blackwood, 1st Marquess of Dufferin and Ava, British politician
- 1875: Thomas Carlyle, Scottish essayist and historian
- 1871: George Robinson, 1st Marquess of Ripon, British politician
- 1862: John Stuart Mill, British philosopher and economist
- 1860: Richard Lyons, 1st Viscount Lyons, British diplomat
- 1858: Francis Napier, 1st Baron Ettrick, British diplomat
- 1853: James Bruce, 8th Earl of Elgin, British colonial administrator and diplomat
- 1846: Thomas Grenville, British politician
- 1844: Charles Lyell, British lawyer and geologist
- 1831: Richard Whately, British rhetorician, logician, economist, and theologian
- ^ "The first Commencement took place in 1642," noted Harvard's Commencement director in 2007. "The difference between 365 years and 356 commencements is accounted for by wars and plagues that cancelled the event." 
- ^ Degree-granting exercises were held in Sanders Theatre from the late nineteenth century through the early twentieth centuries, and prior to that in a succession of locations.[clarification needed]
- ^ abThe governor and sheriffs are among several public officials, not otherwise affiliated with Harvard, who have long taken part in the ceremonies.[clarification needed] By tradition the Middlesex Sheriff closes the ceremony by crying, "The meeting is adjourned," though in 1997 Sheriff James DiPaola, "in his first Harvard Commencement and clearly enjoying his role, wanted more lines. At the end he boomed, 'Marshal ! As the sheriff of Middlesex County, I have news! The meeting is adjourned ! '" 
Not all outside participants have been wholeheartedly enthusiastic. In the 1930s Governor Paul Dever,[when?] to the chagrin of Harvard officials and alumni, shunned the prescribed morning coat for a regular tuxedo and straw hat, and Governor James Michael Curley[when?] appeared in silk stockings, knee britches, powdered wig, and a tricorn hat with plume. (When challenged by Harvard officials—"the story goes", according to the Harvard Crimson—Curley produced the Massachusetts Bay Colony's statutes covering Harvard Commencement dress, and on the basis of its authority claimed to be the only person present who was properly attired.)
In 1970 Middlesex Sheriff John J. Buckley objected to the traditional costume he would be required to wear. After Suffolk Sheriff Thomas S. Eisenstadt was asked to open and close in Buckley's stead, Cambridge mayor Alfred Vellucci mused, "Now I see they're going to have Tom Eisenstadt march with the sword. Where is he going to get a sword unless he borrows one from the Don Juan Drum and Bugle Corps?"  The Don Juan Drum an Bugle Corps (now inactive) was a competitive junior drum and bugle corps founded by Vellucci and his wife in 1965.
- ^ "[Morris Hicky Morgan] was the first regular University Marshal, with the title of Marshal of Commencement from 1896 to 1908 and of University Marshal until his death in March 1910. A Chief Marshal had been appointed for the Bicentennial Celebration in 1836 and for the 250th Celebration in 1886. It has not been discovered who ran ordinary academic exercises before 1896; probably an ad hoc Marshal was appointed," wrote Mason Hammond in the Harvard Library bulletin.
- ^"As recently as Francis Sargent's 1970 attendance, the Governor of Massachusetts traditionally arrived at Commencement with 17th-century mounted, scarlet-coated guard, which escorted him from the State House to the Johnston Gate. The guard bore pikes, somewhat less useful today than when Governor Thomas Dudley rode to the first Commencement despite warnings of possible ambush by Indians." 
- ^ Measuring 46.5 in (118 cm) high and 32.5 in (83 cm) wide, its seat about 20 inches (51 cm) from the floor and about as deep, the Holyoke Chair is thought to have been made in England or Wales between 1550 and 1600. "[A] display of virtuoso turning," it was bought for Harvard by Holyoke, who saw it as "suitable to the authority of the president and establishing an iconographic link between Harvard College and its late-medieval English prototypes, Oxford and Cambridge," in the words of Jonathan Fairbanks and Robert Trent. Although the "thronelike quality [lends] an official air, [chairs of this design] were undoubtedly domestic chairs originally", and indeed (according to a 1903 New York Times article) its use by Holyoke was at first "merely as a serviceable piece of every-day furniture." 
Even after its first recorded ceremonial use (at the 1770 installation of President Samuel Locke) the President's Chair "used to stand in the Harvard library [Gore Hall], where, according to tradition, it gave a student the right to kiss any young woman whom he was showing through the college and who thoughtlessly sat down on it. Whether or not the privilege was often or ever taken advantage of the present generation has no means of knowing."  The Fogg Museum now has custody between ceremonial uses.
- ^The other participating bells are those of Lowell House, the Harvard Business School's Baker Hall, Christ Church Cambridge, the Harvard Divinity School's Andover Hall, the Church of the New Jerusalem, First Church Congregational, First Parish Unitarian Universalist, St. Paul Roman Catholic Church, St. Peter's Roman Catholic Church, University Lutheran Church, Holy Trinity Armenian Apostolic Church, North Prospect United Church of Christ, and St. Anthony's Church.
- ^In 1721, "For the preventing Extravagencies at Commencemts. [The Corporation voted] 1. That the Order ... phibiting any Scholar to have Plum-cake &c in his Study or Chamber [at] Commencement be strictly observed. 2. That all mix'd drink make with distill'd Spts be also phibited ... 3. That the Presidt and Fellows be desired to exhort & direct the Scholars to be more moderate and frugall in the Entertainmts. 4. And that the publick dinner usual on the day after Commencmt be lessen'd or laid aside, as the Presidt and Fellows of the House [i.e. the Tutors][clarification needed] shall think most convenient."
In 1722, the Corporation "took more stringent action still": "Whereas the Countrey in general and the College in Particular have bin under Such Circumstances, as call aloud for Humiliation, and all due manifestations of it; and that a Suitable retrenchmt of every thing that has the face of Exorbitance or [extravegence] in Expences, especially at Commencmt out to be endeavrd. And Whereas the preparations & pvisions that have bin wont to be made at those ties have bin the Occasion of no Small disorders; It is Agreed, and Voted, That henceforth no preparation nor Provision either of Plumb-Cake or rosted, boiled or baked Meats & Pyes of any kind shalbe made by any Commencer, nore shal any such have any distilled Liquors, or any Composition made therewth."
"These regulations proving ineffectual," in 1726 the Corporation, "having now had some Discourse about the great Disorders & Immoralities yt have attended ye Publick Commencements; it is agreed yt ye Several Members of ye Corporation will Jndeavour to think of wt may be a proper method for ye preventing of such Disorders & Immoralities ..." 
- ^"Honorary degrees awarded". Harvard Gazette. May 27, 2010.
- ^Boatner, E.B. "Pumps and Circumstance: A Guide to Academic Garb". Harvard University. Retrieved November 25, 2013.
- ^ abcdefghHightower, Marvin. "The Spirit & Spectacle of Harvard Commencement". Harvard University.
- ^ ab"Morning Exercises". Harvard University Commencement Office. 2013.
- ^"Honorary Degrees". Harvard University. Retrieved October 1, 2013.
- ^Matthews, Albert (1917). "Harvard Commencement Days 1642–1916". Publications of the Colonial Society of Massachusetts: 309–84.
- ^ abcdCromie, William J. (May 31, 2007). "Commencement feasting, customs, color date to medieval Europe". Harvard Gazette.
- ^"Yard Ceremony". Lowell House. Archived from the original on 2013-09-14.
- ^Ireland, Corydon; Koch, Katie; Walsh, Colleen (May 26, 2011). "Moments that make Commencement". Harvard Gazette.
- ^"2013 Commencement Seating, Tercentenary Theater, Morning Exercises". Harvard University Commencement Office. Retrieved October 10, 2013.
- ^"Graduate and Professional Schools". Harvard University Commencement Office.
- ^Callan, Richard L. (April 28, 1984). "100 Dears of Solitude: John Harvard Finishes His First Century". Harvard Crimson.
- ^Rose, Cynthia (May 1999). "Reading the Regalia: A guide to deciphering the academic dress code". Harvard Magazine.
- ^"Locations, Maps and Directions". Harvard University Commencement Office. 2013.
- ^ abSweeney, Sarah (May 26, 2010). "Commencement wonderment". Harvard Gazette.
- ^Hammond, Mason (Summer 1987). "Official Terms in Latin and English for Harvard College or University". Harvard Library bulletin. XXXV (3). Harvard University. pp. 294–310.
- ^ abcMatthews, Albert (1917). Harvard Commencement Days 1642–1916. Publications of the Colonial Society of Massachusetts. XVIII. Transactions 1915–1916. pp. 309–384.
- ^"John Harvard's Journal: Commencement Confetti". Harvard Magazine. July–August 1997.
- ^Epps, Garrett (June 10, 1970). "Sheriff Cops out on Commencement". Harvard Crimson.
- ^"Don Juans of Cambridge". www.warriorfilmmakers.com. Retrieved 2019-02-20.
- ^Hall, George (1968-10-11). "Al Vellucci: The Politics of Disguise". The Harvard Crimson. Retrieved 2019-02-20.
- ^Steve Vickers (2003). A history of drum & bugle corps. Sights & Sounds, Inc. p. 49.
- ^"The Charter of the President and Fellows of Harvard College"(PDF). Archived from the original(PDF) on 2013-10-12.
- ^ abcHightower, Marvin (September 24, 2007). "The President's Chair". Harvard Gazette.
- ^Holmes, Oliver Wendell (October 1858). "The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table (Part 12 of 12)". Atlantic Monthly. Vol. 2 no. 5. p. 626.
- ^ abcFairbanks, Jonathan L; Trent, Robert (1982). New England Begins: The Seventeenth Century. 3. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Department of American Decorative Arts and Sculpture. p. 512.
- ^ abSenzer, Benjamin D. (February 15, 2018). "When The President Took A Seat". Harvard Crimson.
- ^ ab"Harvard's Old Colonial Chair – Thirteen Presidents Have Used It in Turn"(PDF). New York Times. February 22, 1903.
- ^James Bradstreet Greenough; John Knowles Paine. "The Harvard Hymn".[better source needed]
- ^ abRossano, Cynthia W. (May–June 2000). "Grace Notes". Harvard Magazine.
- ^"John Harvard's Journal: Center of Attention". Harvard Magazine. July–August 2011.
- ^ abRossano, Cynthia (May 1997). "These Festival Rites". Harvard Magazine.
- ^Bethell, John T. (May 1997). "The Ultimate Commencement Address: The Making of George C. Marshall's "routine" speech"". Harvard Magazine.
- ^Bethell, John T. (1998). Harvard Observed: An Illustrated History of the University in the Twentieth Century. Harvard University Press. p. 127. ISBN .
ByKristine E. Guillaume and Jamie D. Halper
Harvard’s Class of 2020 is graduating into an unprecedented job market — while many are sticking to similar career choices as previous classes, measurably higher numbers are graduating with uncertainty. Like previous graduating classes, most seniors plan to live on the coasts and many will hold jobs in the consulting, finance, and technology industries.
A majority of students — 61 percent — will enter the workforce in their first year after graduation. This is a slight drop from last year, when 64 percent of students took jobs after graduation. Fourteen percent will attend graduate or professional school and 7 percent will pursue fellowships. In the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak, an unusually high 18 percent of students are undecided, and fewer than 1 percent of seniors will travel after graduation.
From Coast to Coast
A clear majority of graduates will live on the East and West Coasts after graduation, in line with previous years.
- Roughly 25 percent of respondents will live in New York after graduation, commensurate with other graduating classes. Massachusetts and California also drew sizable numbers, with 19 percent and 15 percent, respectively.
- Eight percent of students plan to live outside of the United States after graduation. Of those, 72 percent will move to Europe.
- While more students are uncertain about their jobs than in recent years, this does not appear to have significantly changed how many students are undecided about where they will be living — 12 percent haven’t yet chosen their post-graduation home, roughly the same as last year.
On That 9-to-5 Grind
Three industries reigned supreme among Harvard seniors’ post-graduate plans. Of respondents planning to enter the workforce, a majority — 63 percent — indicated they would go into consulting, finance, or technology. Consulting and finance each drew 22 percent and 23 percent of students entering the workforce, respectively, while 18 percent indicated they would be entering technology sector jobs.
- Of those seniors entering the workforce, 7 percent will pursue careers in academia or research. Four percent plan to go into the health industry, 4 percent into public service or non-profits, and 3 percent into government or politics.
- While gender gaps in consulting have narrowed entirely among respondents — this year women narrowly outnumbered men entering the field — they persist in finance and technology. The technology industry represents the widest male-to-female gap among major industries, with 64 percent of respondents entering technology identifying as male. The gender gap in finance shrank slightly from last year, with 53 percent of respondents going into finance identifying as male.
- A large majority of respondents who indicated they plan to go into health — 71 percent — are female; as are 76 percent of those who plan to pursue careers in academia and research and 63 percent who plan to go into education.
- As in previous years, a plurality of respondents — 15 percent — indicated they wanted to end up in the health field in ten years. Arts and entertainment, and academia and research were the next most popular fields, each with 11 percent of graduating seniors saying they hoped to end up in those industries. Seven percent said they wanted to end up in finance and less than 1 percent indicated they intended to end up in consulting.
Working Hard for the Money
A healthy majority of graduating seniors — 67 percent — who are taking jobs will be making more than $70,000 dollars during their first year out of college, well above the national average for starting salaries for college degree-holders, which hovers around $50,000. There are still significant gender disparities, however, between higher and lower paying positions.
- Nineteen percent of people in the Class of 2020 who have post-graduate jobs will be making more than $110,000 during their first year out of college, not including bonuses.
- Roughly 5 percent of graduates will be taking jobs where they make less than $30,000 and about 1 percent will have unpaid positions.
- Of those making more than $110,000 dollars in their first year after graduation, 63 percent identify as male. Of those making less than $30,000, 64 percent identify as female.
- More than 70 percent of respondents who are taking jobs expect to earn a bonus during their first year, including 30 percent who expect a bonus greater than $20,000.
- Nearly every graduate entering consulting, finance, and technology expects to earn a bonus, with the greatest percentage — 66 percent — of people in finance anticipating a bonus over $20,000 in their first year.
- Virtually no one entering academia and research expects to earn a bonus, followed closely by people entering the arts and entertainment industry. Eighty-eight percent of people entering education or publishing and media also did not anticipate receiving bonuses.
Help From Families
- Sixty-one percent of seniors are expecting to receive support from their parents during their first year after graduation. Out of the class as a whole, 18 percent said they expect “substantial” support, which can include rent.
- Similar to last year, 19 percent of respondents will graduate with student loans. Of those students, 35 percent say those loans have impacted their plans for after graduation.
- Sixty-eight percent of respondents said their family’s socioeconomic status informed their plans for after college, with 21 percent saying it “greatly” informed their plans and 47 percent saying it “somewhat” did.
Graduating During a Pandemic
Among Harvard undergraduates, the Class of 2020 faces the unique circumstance of graduating into a pandemic and developing recession. More than half of survey respondents indicated their postgraduate plans had changed due to the COVID-19 outbreak, while 19 percent said they had not finalized plans prior to March 2020.
- Among graduating seniors, 13 percent said they lost a job or postgraduate offer because of the COVID-19 outbreak and 32 percent said they had to cancel their plans in some form as a result of the pandemic.
- Nearly a quarter of respondents entering the workforce indicated their start dates were postponed due to COVID-19.
- Among surveyed respondents entering the workforce, the majority — 64 percent — remain unsure whether they will begin work in-person or remotely. Twenty-one percent of respondents said they will begin work remotely.
- Among those who indicated they plan to pursue a fellowship, nearly half said that their start dates were postponed due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
2020 graduation harvard
Graduation, Socially Distanced
There’s nothing like a global pandemic and economic meltdown to concentrate the mind and focus the joyous celebration of graduation on the very hard work at hand. And so it was with Harvard’s condensed, online University degree-conferral ceremony (“Honoring the Harvard Class of 2020”) and its diverse schools’ class days and celebrations on Thursday, May 28, as Tercentenary Theatre lay vacant (see the cover) on an occasion when 32,000 happy people would normally be present. The community has known since March 20 that the 369th Commencement, as usually understood, was not to be. In response, among so many other pressing priorities, University leaders, arts and music staff members, and students themselves joined forces to invent a suitable procedure for transforming candidates into graduates (with that hard-won, Harvardian credential officially bestowed)—and with the promise of proper festival rites in the future, when the pandemic loosens its grip on people worldwide.
The result was an innovation: an online morning broadcast, with President Lawrence S. Bacow hosting and conferring the aforesaid 8,174 degrees and certificates en masse, preceded and followed by online school events—some including high-wattage class-day speakers, and showing their newly minted alumni individually, and by name.
Lawrence S. Bacow
Screenshot by Harvard Magazine
That bare outline does no justice to the emotions expressed, the very serious commentary on the nearly overwhelming issues of the day, or the community’s resilience in embracing both.
The depopulating of the campus on short notice in mid March left nearly everyone—and perhaps most poignantly, the College’s expectant seniors—bewildered and disoriented. Turning to the most basic indicators, a section of The Harvard Crimson’s senior survey on COVID-19-related matters found 35 percent of respondents reporting inadequate study space at home (or wherever); 21 percent struggling to schedule work from distant time zones; 17 percent having to juggle coursework and an obligation to help support their families; and 11 percent confronting illness (personally or within their families). One can only imagine how they felt.
Absent a Baccalaureate, Bacow sent a message to the seniors on May 27. “When we recruited you,” he wrote, “we offered you the opportunity to work with great faculty, and you did. But when we recruited the faculty to Harvard, we offered them the opportunity to work with extraordinary students, students who would challenge them like no other, and you did!…At times like this, I like to recall one of my favorite passages from the Talmud. It is the reflections of a great scholar. ‘I have learned much from my teachers,’ he wrote, ‘more from my colleagues, but most from my students.’ On behalf of all of us at Harvard, thank you for having taught us so well. It has been our joy to share this campus with you.”
The administrator closest to them, College dean Rakesh Khurana, told the seniors who tuned in on Thursday afternoon, “Even in the face of enormous losses we are experiencing on the global level, it’s okay to grieve for the smaller ways that your lives have shifted dramatically and unexpectedly…and to mourn what you have lost by missing out on these last few months at Harvard.” Beyond the moment, he reminded them, “[T]oday is a moment to think about what lies ahead, and to ask yourselves how you are going to move forward with hope into a world that looks so different from the one you were preparing to enter” (see harvardmag.com/comm-obrien-20).
Ashley M. LaLonde
Screenshot by Harvard Magazine
Others found unique ways to articulate the prevailing sentiments. In their impeccably delivered undergraduate and graduate English addresses, Michael J. Phillips ’20 and Sana Raoof ’12, Ph.D. ’18, M.D. ’20, spoke immediately and intimately to the audience, one-to-one: impossible in the vastness of Tercentenary Theatre, but natural and even familiar in the Zoom era. After a sort of wordless blessing—his performance of a medley of “Simple Gifts” and the “Sarabande” from Cello Suite No. 3 in C Major, by J.S. Bach—with the last note ebbing, Yo-Yo Ma ’76, D.Mus. ’91, whispered an almost prayerful “Congratulations.” And Ashley M. LaLonde ’20, accompanied by Madeline A. Smith ’14, tugged at hearts by performing “Home,” based on Dorothy’s feelings about the place she’d been dispossessed of and longed to return to, from The Wiz. (Read about the morning program at harvardmag.com/comm-report-20.)
There were, inevitably, moments of humor. Introducing the honorary speaker the next morning, Bacow recalled inviting The Washington Post’s executive editor, Martin Baron, to attend, months earlier—and now, he quipped, “here we aren’t.” Conan O’Brien ’85, the seniors’ guest speaker, recalled telling an earlier class to break out of their cocoons—advice now necessarily modified, for viral conditions, to, “Stay in your cocoon! Stay!”
But with the planet wobbling alarmingly off its axis, there was plenty of fire and brimstone as well. At least two speakers—Raoof, and Business School dean Nitin Nohria—invoked the Marshall Plan in outlining the responses required, worldwide, to address the pandemic and economic crises (see harvardmag.com/comm-hbs-20). At the Medical/Dental Schools and Law School, respectively, Robert Satcher, M.D. ’94, and Bryan Stevenson, J.D.-M.P.A.’85, LL.D. ’15, recalled family experiences of discrimination and disadvantage—including the near-lynching of Satcher’s sharecropper great-grandfather, and Stevenson beginning his education in a rigidly segregated “colored school.” He urged the lawyers-to-be to “find ways to get proximate to the poor, to those who suffer, to those who are marginalized, to those who are excluded….” (Read more at harvardmag.com/comm-hms-20 and harvardmag.com/comm-hls-20).
The most urgent, sweeping challenges of the day were addressed head-on by Martin Baron in a blunt review of the threats to the free press, the freedom of expression—and, inevitably—the University’s pursuit of Veritas. “Only a few months ago, I would have settled for emphasizing that our democracy depends on facts and truth,” he began. “And it surely does. But now, as we can plainly see, it is more elemental than that. Facts and truth are matters of life and death. Misinformation, disinformation, delusions, and deceit can kill.”
Toward the end of his address, Baron continued, “To determine what is factual and true, we rely on certain building blocks. Start with education. Then there is expertise. And experience. And, above all, we rely on evidence.” As “education, expertise, experience, and evidence” are “devalued, dismissed, and denied,” the idea of objective fact is being undermined, “all in pursuit of political gain.” As evidence, Baron cited “a systematic effort to disqualify traditional independent arbiters of fact,” from the press to the “courts, historians, even scientists and medical professionals—subject-matter experts of every type.”
He cited W.E.B. Du Bois, A.B. 1890, Ph.D. ’95, who in 1935, distressed at how deceitfully America’s Reconstruction period was being taught, assailed the propaganda of the era. “Nations reel and stagger on their way,” Du Bois wrote. “They make hideous mistakes; they commit frightful wrongs; they do great and beautiful things. And shall we not best guide humanity by telling the truth about all this, so far as the truth be ascertainable?”
At this university, you answer that question with your motto “Veritas.” You seek the truth—with scholarship, teaching, and dialogue—knowing that it really matters.
My profession shares with you that mission—the always arduous, often tortuous and yet essential pursuit of truth. It is the demand that democracy makes upon us. It is the work we must do.
We will keep at it. You should, too. None of us should ever stop.
Bacow thanked him “for your own work to reveal the world as it is” (see harvardmag.com/comm-report-20).
The glue that holds this enterprise together, at Harvard, is the joint dedication, even under severely adverse conditions, to sustain a community committed to that pursuit of truth, and to one another’s ability to do so.
Photograph by Ken Hill Studio
Some of that labor takes place selflessly, out of sight. Working from her family home in Saline, Michigan (near Ann Arbor and one of America’s great public universities), Terzah Hill ’20 spent much of the last month of her senior year editing 1,021 of her classmates’ video submissions of special moments and memories into a presentation for the Thursday afternoon College celebration—while also directing the House faculty deans’ TikTok-inspired video greetings to their departing students. Amazingly, she had earlier done similar work for the admissions office, preparing the video welcome to the perhaps-about-to-arrive class of 2024 (whose “Visitas” was necessarily conducted virtually as well). Her reaction to this behind-the-scenes going-and-coming experience, on others’ behalf: “Bittersweet.”
More visibly, Heather Zimmerman did the signing for the morning video presentations (for example, see the Baron and Bacow photographs above)—a service she has performed at prior Commencements.
The most cathartic moment in the University’s morning celebration—and the biggest one—came last, after interim Pusey Minister in the Memorial Church Stephanie A. Paulsell gave the benediction. She acknowledged the participants’ joy mingled with “a measure of grief” under the circumstances; wished for the graduates the “freedom to let your lives be shaped by your deepest questions and your fiercest hopes”; and reassuringly concluded, “May you and those you love travel safely through this time.”
Then, through the melding of expert artistic and musical direction and superb technology, the “Harvard University Chorus”—a few voices, then dozens, with accompanying instrumentalists, many with headsets—combined forces in a rendition of “Fair Harvard,” sonic and visual, that by rights might well linger in memory “Till the stars in the firmament die.”
Are you telling me this, or are you comforting yourself. Of course, you, Benjamin whispered, bending over me. Our eyes are opposite, but it lasted only for a moment. And then suddenly, as if breaking through the dam of the sky, rain poured down.
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