Commencement Confetti

An omnium-gatherum of notes and statistics, vital and otherwise

Lots of M.B.A.s

On Commencement day, Thursday, June 8, Harvard conferred 6,706 degrees and 248 certificates. The College granted 1,641 of these, 66 of them summa cum laude. The Business School discharged 904 graduates; the Divinity School, 160. Elizabeth V. McNeil, A.L.B. ’06, of Everett, Massachusetts, who is retired after more than a quarter-century working at the Harvard University Health Services, was the oldest graduate, earning a bachelor’s degree from the Extension School at 82.


Father Poetized

Phi Beta Kappa poet Elizabeth Alexander, associate professor of African American studies at Yale, read “The Poem of a Thousand Stories” at the annual meeting of the Alpha Iota chapter of Phi Beta Kappa on Tuesday, June 6. Her poem spoke, in part, of her father, “the first black everything” at Harvard, the first marshal of his class, who “took the bus to Roxbury to get his hair cut,” Clifford L. Alexander Jr. ’55, who became the first African-American Secretary of the Army. “He tells me,” read poet Alexander, “speaking up/may not make you feel good,/ may not right a wrong,/may not get you what you want,/but you never know who is listening/and someone is always listening.”

Lucien Carter '06, of Dunster House and Chicago, with singer Tony Bennett, his godfather
Photograph by Stu Rosner

The PBK orator was Sean Wilentz, the Dayton-Stockon professor of history at Princeton, who characterized American democracy as an ongoing argument, not easily exported. When Alexis de Tocqueville visited America in the 1830s, he found a democracy that included slavery and excluded voting rights for the poor, “hardly a democracy as we would define it today, and yet it was more of a democracy than at the time of America’s founding….”


Prized Teachers

The Phi Beta Kappa teaching prizes went to Higgins professor of mathematics Joseph D. Harris (“he makes numbers magic”), Freed professor of economics and Harvard College Professor Caroline M. Hoxby (who “leaves her students well prepared to compete in the free market of ideas”), and Watts professor of music and professor of African and African American studies Kay K. Shelemay (her students lead “richer and more harmonious lives”).

Orator Joy Seth Hurd IV
Photograph by Jim Harrison



At Harvard today, a glory similar to that of ancient Rome lives and thrives, Joy Seth Hurd IV ’06, of Currier House and Fairview Park, Ohio, assured the audience in his Latin salutatory, one of three traditional student “parts” in the Commencement exercises. Harvardians differ from the Romans in one way. Whereas the ancients became lazy, slothful, and indolent, “we have worked, we are working, and we will always work for others.” For this reason, said Hurd, “Numquam degenerabimus, numquam cademus” (We will never decline. We will never fall).


The Tie That Binds

To age well, said George Vaillant ’55, M.D. ’59, in a fiftieth-reunion symposium on that topic, don’t smoke, watch your drinking, and nurture your marriage, for it will sustain you—you men especially. The professor of psychiatry quoted approvingly a married woman of a certain age who was asked whether she had ever considered divorcing her husband. “Divorce, never,” she replied. “Murder, frequently.”


Ted Williams Returns

This was the first combined Harvard-Radcliffe fiftieth reunion. Moreover, the ’56ers staged the first official reunion event for any class to be held at Fenway Park. John Kaneb ’56, of Chelsea, Massachusetts, is one of the partners who own the Red Sox, and he secured the EMC Club, a luxury seating and eating area, for half the usual fee. The class dined on hot dogs and potato salad and heard speeches by baseball analyst Peter Gammons of ESPN, brother of Rev. Edward B. “Ned” Gammons Jr. ’56, of Warren, Rhode Island, and from retired Harvard athletic director William J. Cleary Jr. ’56, of Auburndale, Maine. Present were two classmates with the same names as Sox Hall of Famers: Edward P. “Ted” Williams ’56, M.B.A. ’58, of Tecamachaico, Mexico, and Joseph M. Cronin ’56, M.A.T. ’57, of Milton, Massachusetts, who wore a baseball-uniform shirt with the other Joe Cronin’s number 4 on the back.


“Hello darkness…”

Linda Greenhouse ’68 went to a Simon and Garfunkel concert soon after the war in Iraq began, and in the middle of the concert she had a crying jag. When she accepted the 2006 Radcliffe Institute Medal at the institute’s luncheon on June 9, the New York Times’s Supreme Court correspondent explained: “Thinking back to my college days in those troubled and tumultuous late 1960s, there were many things that divided my generation.… [Yet] we were absolutely united in one conviction: the belief that in future decades, if the world lasted that long, when our turn came to run the country, we wouldn’t make the same mistakes.…I cried that night…out of the realization that my faith had been misplaced.… We were the problem.”


The class of ’06 invited Seth MacFarlane, creator and executive producer of the animated television show Family Guy, to address them on Class Day, which he did, in four voices: his own and those of Peter, the father of the Rhode Island clan; Stewie, the baby who means to take over the world; and Glenn Quagmire, the raunchy neighbor, who added to off-color remarks a genial, “Giggety, giggety, and good luck to all.”
Photograph by Jim HarrisonFox Television

Home Truths

Class day speaker at the Business School, June 7, was Henry M. Paulson Jr., chair and CEO of Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Treasury Secretary-designate. He told the class that they were entering the most extraordinary global economy ever, with India and China booming, Japan and Brazil growing, Germany recovering, and the United States much stronger than hoped. He offered advice, including that graduates should “work very hard to maintain a professional-personal balance.” He confided that he had started at Goldman in 1974, and was working intensely. He and his family lived in the countryside outside Chicago, where his wife, Wendy, was raising their one- and their three-year-old with no help from him; he’d come home and lock himself in the bathroom to read Sports Illustrated to unwind. Wendy warned him: spend time with the children or one day you will come home to find them here and me gone. So he began taking the 4:42 train home, bathing the children, and reading to them. He recited a bit of Goodnight Moon from memory to prove it. He would read quickly, in a monotone. “Slow down and read it with expression,” instructed Wendy, but when he did, the children cried and said, “No, read it like a daddy, not like a mommy.”


“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” For the Business School’s Portrait Project 2006, students answered that question, taken from a poem by Mary Oliver, in 200 words or fewer, and photographs of about 30 respondents, with their answers, hung in the Spangler Center during Commencement week. The photographs were by Anthony Deifell, M.B.A. ’02, of San Francisco, who launched the annual project five years ago. Some earlier answers, with current updates, were also on view, including one from Philip Black, M.B.A. ’02, who was first a financial planner for Goldman Sachs and is now a firefighter in San Diego.
Photograph by Stu Rosner


[not shown]
Fiftieth reunioners, all members of the 150-pound, lightweight crew in their salad days, had another go at the Charles River on June 5. The cox was a ringer: Charles Butt IV, son of today’s lightweight crew coach. Facing him are the class of 1956’s Eric Oddleifson, M.B.A. ’63, of Cohasset, Massachusetts, at stroke; Robert P. Volpe, of Bloomfield, Connecticut; Reginald E. Greene, of Boston; John L. Lizars, M.B.A. ’60, of East Hampton, New York; Gerhard R. Schade Jr., of Glastonbury, Connecticut; Peter H. Viles, of Worcester, Massachusetts; John “Jack” H. Henshaw Jr., of Brunswick, Maine; and Nicholas Daniloff, NF ’74, of Boston.

You might also like

Steven Pinker on Apple’s Vision Pro

Professor of psychology on the science and history behind the Vision Pro.

The State of Black America

Harvard African American scholars take stock of a difficult moment. 

Threats Foreign and Domestic

Joseph Nye discusses geopolitics and Harvard’s challenges.

Most popular

An Authentic Act

Basketball coach Kathy Delaney-Smith navigates players’ gender and sexual identity, mental health, and other challenging social issues.

Mass Audubon Ushers in the Spring

Exploring nature through Mass Audubon

Blindspot: A Novel

History professor Jill Lepore is the coauthor, with Jane Kamensky, of the historical novel Blindspot, set in colonial Boston.

More to explore

Photograph of Winthrop Bell 1910

Winthrop Bell

Brief life of a philosopher and spy: 1884-1965

Illustration of people talking to each other with colorful thought bubbles above their heads

Talking about Talking

Fostering healthy disagreement

Vacationing with a Purpose

New England “summer camps” for adults