Portraits of Sherrilyn Ifill, Merrick B. Garland, Tracy K. Smith, and Jacinda Ardern, Harvard Commencement and alumni speakers 2022
Clockwise from top left: Sherrilyn Ifill, Merrick B. Garland, Tracy K. Smith, Jacinda ArdernClockwise from top left: Photograph courtesy of NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund; United States Department of Justice; Photograph by Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard University; Photograph by the New Zealand Government/Office of the Governor-General

Harvard will welcome a lot of high-wattage speakers to campus this graduation season, reflecting the unusual number of University events. Commencement proper, for the class of 2022, takes place Thursday morning, May 26. The Radcliffe Day events follow on Friday. A celebration of the classes of 2020 and 2021 (whose members received their degrees virtually during those pandemic springs but were deprived of the in-person hoopla and family photo-ops) occupies Tercentenary Theatre Sunday, May 29—followed by House and school gatherings. And the first Harvard Alumni Day, focusing on alumni and reunions (building on the virtual preview last year), takes the stage on Friday, June 3. The principal speakers for each occasion are:

Commencement. Jacinda Ardern, prime minister of New Zealand. In making the announcement, President Lawrence S. Bacow described her as “one of the most respected leaders on the world stage,” noting, “From climate change and gender equality to COVID-19, she has modeled compassionate leadership that has brought together empathy and science-based solutions to address the most challenging issues of our time.” Read more at harvardmag.com/ardern-commencement-22.

Radcliffe Day. Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel emerita, NAACP Legal Defense Fund. In describing the Radcliffe Medalist-to-be, Dean Tomiko Brown-Nagin said Ifill “embodies Radcliffe’s highest ideals. She is an influential scholar and educator, and she is deeply engaged in the hard work of change-making. As a nation, we owe a great deal to her pathbreaking leadership”—in such realms as litigating voting-rights cases. Her background and the full Radcliffe program are described at harvardmag.com/ifill-radcliffe-medal-22.

Classes of 2020-2021 celebration. Merrick B Garland ’74, J.D. ’77, U.S. attorney general. Bacow described the distinguished former judge, past leader of the Board of Overseers, and nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court as “a true public servant” who has “demonstrated deep devotion to the rule of law and to the cause of justice.” Learn more at harvardmag.com/garland-commencement-22.

Harvard Alumni Day. Tracy K. Smith, professor of English and of African and African American studies and the Wallach professor at the Radcliffe Institute. Alumni Association president Vanessa W. Liu said of the former poet laureate and Pulitzer Prize honorand, “An educator and lyricist of the human condition, Tracy K. Smith is a powerful example of how Harvard alumni are transforming their expertise — their experience, empathy, and artful reflection on our world—to imagine a better world.” Further information about her work and career appears at harvardmag.com/smith-alumni-22.

Follow complete Harvard Magazine coverage of the these and other Commencement events at harvardmagazine.com/topic/commencement and in the July-August issue.

Read more articles by: John S. Rosenberg

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