John Harvard's Journal
The Year That Was
Class spirit (the shirt), recyclable regalia, Zoom primal scream
To build, and bolster, spirit among the pandemic-dispersed members of the College class of 2024—many deferred enrolling; those who matriculated took their classes remotely, whether from socially distanced single bedrooms in Cambridge or their own bedrooms around the world—the First Year Experience office sponsored a contest to design a T-shirt. The winner came from class member Tyler Nilson, of Santa Clarita, California, who hunkered down in Canaday Hall for his unusual freshman experience.
“I’ve been impressed by the resilience of my classmates, who have navigated an abnormal first year while spread across the world,” he emailed. The design for the tee’s back, shown here (duly vetted and green-lighted by Harvard’s trademark office), comments succinctly on what the weird year was like: a riff on an imaginary worldwide band tour, extending outward from Harvard Yard, with instruction emanating from the campus to Canvas, the “learning management platform” that Harvard uses—to an unprecedented degree this academic year—for instructional support. Encompassing far-flung classmates in his design, Nilson said, highlighted their “efforts to create community despite our separation.” Everyone who requested a shirt got the keepsake, documenting their membership in this unforgettable COVID-19 community.
Screenshot by Harvard Magazine
In May 2020, the University rushed to conduct a virtual graduation, in lieu of the full-blown Commencement rendered impossible by the coronavirus. One lesson learned was that students playing parts in the exercise and celebrating their degrees at home with family members missed the customary regalia (see harvardmag.com/comm-report-20).
That lack has now been remedied. Working with Oak Hall, the University’s supplier, the Commencement Office and schools arranged for an alternative. As the FAQ on the office website put it, “In addition to the traditional, custom regalia for purchase, we are proudly introducing a special, keepsake gown this year made with the environment in mind from 100% post-consumer, recycled materials in the USA.” Graduates-to-be were directed to a Harvard Coop ordering page, where they could log in and secure standard shipping of their duds by May 6 (international) or May 13 (domestic) in time for strutting for selfies on May 27. (Laggards could pony up for expedited shipping as late as May 14 and May 24, respectively.)
An A.B. cap, gown, and tassel cost $49.50; for over-achievers, the dual bachelor’s/master’s package, with the crimson hood, commanded $90.00. Closets worlwide, be prepared!
Baking Bread…and Zooming
Summing up the year succinctly, New York Times editorial board member Farah Stockman—a co-chair of the class of 1996’s reunion-program committee—had this to say in her twenty-fifth anniversary report: “My daughter loves COVID because it means that I don’t travel anymore. Now I just seem to bake banana bread and harass my former roommates on Zoom. One of the highlights of the pandemic, besides eliminating a commute, has been witnessing the reconstitution of so many old college crews, albeit virtually, trying to come up with the Zoom version of the primal scream.”