Commencement Confetti

An omnium gatherum of notes and statistics, vital and otherwise


The University awarded 6,349 earned degrees, 11 honorary degrees, and 290 certificates at its 352nd Commencement. Diplomas went to 1,586 College students, 64 summa cum laude. It was a cosmopolitan throng, viz., 536 people took degrees from the Kennedy School of Government, and they hailed from 70 countries on six continents.


Seniors are marched to the Memorial Church after breakfast on Commencement day to give Rev. Peter J. Gomes a last crack at them. He recommended humility and cautioned his flock about the pomp they were about to be part of: "There is less here than meets the eye."
Photograph by Stu Rosner


Torrential rains dowsed Yale's commencement on May 26, and rain was predicted for Harvard's festival rites, when Ernesto Zedillo, now at Yale, was to receive an honorary degree and speak in the afternoon. Rain did indeed fall in the early-morning hours. The Yard gates opened at 7 a.m., and the earliest to arrive sat in the sodden chill of Tercentenary Theatre (the midday temperature was 57 degrees Fahrenheit) for three hours waiting for the formal exercises to begin. Still, no rain descended on the throng, estimated near 30,000. When in course President Summers conferred degrees upon candidates from the Divinity School, many of whom wore halos fashioned of golden pipecleaners on their mortarboards, he thanked them "for the use of their special connections this year, and I ask for just one more hour." He got it.

At the Chief Marshal's Spread for lunch, host Mark Gearan '78 toasted Zedillo, who rose to respond. "I am terribly worried," said Zedillo, "because today I am confirming what friends had told me—that God studied at Harvard. Rain was predicted at Harvard, and rain did not come, so I will take that bad news back to New Haven."

The first drops came at 4:19 p.m., just as Zedillo concluded his address.



Each year the highest-ranking summa graduate of the College wins the Sophia Freund Prize. This year two of the $1,000 prizes were awarded: to Lisa Beth Schwartz '03, of Eliot House and East Hills, New York, who did not receive in four years a single grade under A, and to Elias Reinhold Sacks, of Leverett House and the Bronx, who had an identical grade-point average. The last person to pull this off was Lisa's brother Kevin '01, and he was the first undergraduate to do it in nearly 20 years.


ABOUT TIME: Barred when they were at Radcliffe from Lamont, the main study library for Harvard College students, these fiftieth reunioners arranged to attend a cocktail party at that library, made a conspicuous show of study, and burst into song, a bit of "The Radcliffe Revolution," sung to the tune of the "Battle Hymn of the Republic": "We'll put a ladies' restroom in the basement of Lamont [three times], when the Radcliffe revolution comes!"
Photograph by Jim Harrison


Security guards passed wands over the persons of guests entering the Yard Commencement morning, and the gates opened earlier than usual to allow ample time for these safety precautions. This year, for the first time, students and staff were required to wear around their necks their Harvard photo-ID cards on lanyards provided to them. The lanyards bore the words "Harvard University Commencement 2003," woven in white on red, and might be construed as a sort of souvenir. Parked on Quincy Street by Lamont Library was the Middlesex County Sheriff's Office Community Command Center, a city-bus-long white vehicle with a 40-foot white mast functioning as a communications backup for all the Harvard, Cambridge, state, and other area police and fire agencies involved in Commencement security.



Harvard's Media and Technology Services employees get a workout during Commencement week, ensuring that the participants can see and hear all that's going on. Media technician Barry Reed, covering his first College reunion after several years of duty at the Business School, gave the class of 1953 something special: a selection of '50s musical favorites that he compiled and played over the PA system to "fill the space" immediately before and after the class symposiums in Sanders Theatre.


FREE TIME: Fiftieth reunioners disported themselves variously--at tennis, golf, the Kennedy Library, the Adams National Park, or perhaps an amphibious duck tour of Boston and the Charles.
Photograph by Jim Harrison


Photograph by Jim Harrison

The oldest alumnus present at the annual meeting of the Harvard Alumni Association Thursday afternoon was Albert Hamilton Gordon '23, M.B.A. '25, LL.D. '77, of New York City, who turns 102 in July, and had come to Cambridge for his eightieth reunion. Gordon received a standing ovation and a tribute from President Summers, who called him an inspiration: "At the age of 80, Al Gordon ran his first marathon, in London, and his has been a marathon of support for this University."



At the dinner Wednesday evening to honor candidates for honorary degrees, President Summers said he wished to recognize "another distinguished group whose service to the University is at the core of our enterprise—those members of our faculty who have recently been honored for their outstanding teaching. Their names are listed in the back of your program, and I would like to ask all of them to rise." (Twenty-six names were listed.) "Ralph Waldo Emerson," said Summers, "Harvard College class of 1821, born 200 years ago last week, knew the value of outstanding teaching. 'Teaching,' he said—and Emerson, as you know, was not a man given to understatement— 'Teaching is the perpetual end and office of all things. [It] is the main design that shines through the sky and earth.'"


FAMILY TRADITION: Eight Harvard seniors became commissioned officers at the ROTC commissioning ceremony on June 4 in Tercentenary Theatre. At right, just before the ceremony, Rear Admiral Charles L. Munns administers the oath of office to his son, Jeffrey C. Munns '03, of Leverett House and Burke, Virginia, in the favoring presence of John Harvard.
Photograph by Jim Harrison


Commencement caller William R. Hutchison, Warren research professor of the history of religion in America, noted from his podium that this was the sixtieth anniversary of the first Commencement held in Tercentenary Theatre. Previously the ceremonies took place in Sever Quadrangle, where the professional-school degree candidates now gather.


In the mizzling damp, attendance at first numbered in the dozens, rather than the more usual scores, at the traditional outdoor concert on the stage of Tercentenary Theatre on Wednesday evening: the Harvard Glee Club's "Lamentations of Jeremiah" seemed more suited to conditions than its "Glorious Apollo." But the sky-blue backdrop of the stage, and the warm yellow of the spotlights, drew a growing audience that applauded, yipped, and yelped enthusiastically, especially for the tour de force performance of Adolph Schreiner's "The Worried Drummer" by percussion soloist Jason Armstrong '03 and the traditional football fight songs that end each concert and draw a cross-generational mix of Harvard Band, Glee Club, and Radcliffe Choral Society members on stage for a rousing finale.

Comments of a semi-vintage couple, overheard on the way out of Tercentenary Theatre:

She: Those pom-pom songs don't really go with the radical image.

He: Not everyone was radical. I was erratic.  


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