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History and traditions of Harvard commencements

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

(l-r) US Navy Secretary (and Har­vard Over­seer) George Meyer; Prof. Frank W. Taussig; Pres. Eliot (who dis­dained aca­dem­ic regal­ia);[2] Bishop (and Over­seer) William Lawrence (1911)
(l-r) US Navy Secretary (and Har­vard Over­seer) George Meyer; Prof. Frank W. Taussig; Pres. Eliot (who dis­dained aca­dem­ic regal­ia);[2] Bishop (and Over­seer) William Lawrence (1911)

What was originally called Harvard Colledge (around which Harvard University eventually grew) held its first Commence­ment in September 1642, when nine degrees were conferred.[3] 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 upperclass House) during which actual diplomas are given in hand; and in the afternoon the annual meeting of the Harvard Alumni Association's, at which Harvard's President and the day's featured speaker deliver their addresses.[4]

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.[5] 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,[a] and are now held at the end of May.[citation needed] 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."

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Thank you, Susan, for those generous words, and thank you graduates, alumni and friends for that generous welcome. Heartfelt congratulations to you, our graduates, and to your families for the hard work and many accomplishments that have brought you to this day. I am especially grateful to John Lewis for sharing his inspiring words and presence with us. There can be no finer example of how to live a life than that of John Lewis, whose courage, dedication, selflessness, and moral clarity have for more than a half century challenged this country to realize its promise of liberty and justice for all. It is an inexpressible honor and privilege to stand on this stage beside him. Almost eleven years ago I stood on this platform to deliver my inaugural address as Harvard’s 28th president. Today’s remarks represent something of a bookend—a kind of valedictory—vale-dictory, literally, farewell words. When I spoke in 2007, I observed that inaugural speeches are “by definition pronouncements by individuals who don’t yet know what they are talking about.” By now I can no longer invoke that excuse. I am close to knowing all I ever will about being Harvard’s president. I then went on to say something else about the peculiar genre of inaugural addresses: that we might dub them, as I put it then, “expressions of hope unchastened by the rod of experience.” By now I should know that rod. In my mind I hear the Jimi Hendrix of my youth asking: “Are you experienced?” I would have to answer affirmatively. Perhaps not as experienced as Charles William Eliot who made it through 40 years as Harvard president. But 11 years is a long time. Think about it: the iPhone and I were launched within 48 hours of each other in the summer of 2007. We are now so attached to our devices that it seems almost unimaginable that they were not always there. The smartphone initiated a revolution in how we communicate, how we interact, how we organize our lives. We are only beginning to understand the impact of this digital transformation on our disrupted society, economy, politics—and even our brains. 2008 brought the financial crisis and the loss of close to a third of our endowment—prompting us in the ensuing years to overturn a system of governance that had been in place since 1650, and to transform our financial—and ultimately our investment—processes and policies. Five years ago, we lived through the marathon bombings and the arrival of terror in our very midst—and came together as Boston Strong. We have experienced wild weather from hurricanes to snowmageddon to bombogenesis, and doubled down on our commitment to combat climate change. We have confronted a cheating crisis, an email crisis, a primate crisis, and sexual assault and sexual harassment crises—and made significant and lasting changes in response to each. We have faced down H1N1, Ebola, Zika, and even the mumps. We have been challenged—as well as often inspired and enlightened—by renewed and passionate student activism: Occupy; Black Lives Matter; Divest Harvard; I, Too, Am Harvard; Undocumented at Harvard and hashtag Me Too. We have faced a political and policy environment increasingly hostile to expertise and skeptical about higher education: the unprecedented endowment tax passed last December will, we estimate, impose on us a levy next year equivalent to $2,000 per student. There has indeed been a good measure of chastening. But today I want to focus not on that “rod of experience,” but on what I then defined as the essence of an inaugural message: the expression of hope. Now, as then, that is what fills both my mind and my heart as I think about Harvard, its present and its future. These past eleven years have only strengthened my faith in higher education and its possibilities. Hope, I have learned, derives not just from the innocence of inexperience, but from the everyday realities, the day-to-day work of leading and loving this university. At a time of growing distrust of institutions and constant attacks on colleges and universities, I want to affirm my belief that they are beacons of hope—I think our best hope—for the future to which we aspire. In their very essence universities are about hope and about the future, and that is at the heart of what we celebrate today. Hope is the foundation of learning. The 6,989 graduates we honor today arrived here with aspirations about what education could make possible, with dreams about how their lives would be changed because of the time they would spend here. Dean Rakesh Khurana regularly speaks to students in the College about the transformations—intellectual, social, personal—they should seek from their undergraduate experience, urging them to articulate their hopes and define a path toward realizing them. And we do have such very high aspirations for them: that they find lives of meaning and purpose, that they discover a passion that animates them, that they strive toward veritas, that they use their education to do good in the world. Never has the world needed these graduates more, and I think they understand that. I had lunch with a dozen or so seniors a month ago, and I asked them to characterize their four years here. They spoke of the ways they had changed and grown, but, more pointedly, they spoke of how the world seemed to have changed around them. They worried about the health and sustainability of the earth; they worried about the health of our democracy and of civil society. And they described how their attitudes and plans had altered because of these changed circumstances. They no longer took their world for granted; the future of our society, our country, our planet could not be guaranteed; it was up to them. Their careers and life goals had shifted to embrace a much broader sense of responsibility extending beyond themselves to encompass an obligation to a common good they had come to recognize might not survive without them. I thought of these students as something akin to alchemists—confronting dark realities and forging a golden path that offered hope—to themselves about their own lives, but to all of us as we imagine what these extraordinary graduates will do with and for the damaged world we offer them as their inheritance. It would be impossible to be surrounded by these students as they move through their time at Harvard without being filled with hope about the future they will create. To paraphrase the Ed School’s Campaign slogan, they are here learning to change the world. Building a more enlightened world is of course the fundamental work of the faculty as well, and at the core of Harvard’s identity as a research university. The fundamental question we ask as we consider appointing a professor is “What has this person done to alter and enhance our understanding of the world?” Perhaps they have revealed how the microbiome works, or how international trade agreements affect economic prosperity, or how undocumented students confront educational challenges. Perhaps they’ve unlocked ways to identify the actual location of genes that cause schizophrenia, or have discovered how to engineer an exo-suit to enable a person to walk. Harvard scholars explore history and literature to help us understand tyranny; art to illuminate the foundations of justice; law and technology to address assaults on fundamental assumptions about privacy. With its eye cast on creating a different future, all of this work is founded in hope—of seeing something more clearly, of influencing others to change their understanding and perhaps even their actions. We are by definition a community of idealists, thinking beyond the present and the status quo to imagine how and when things could be different, could be otherwise. The privilege of interacting with Harvard’s remarkable students and faculty, and the dedicated staff who support their work has uplifted me every day for the past eleven years. It would be next to impossible not to believe in the future they are so intent to build. But there is another way that Harvard fills me with hope, and that is the way we as a community—living and working together within these walls—are endeavoring ourselves to grapple with the challenging forces dividing and threatening the world—forces like climate change, or the divisiveness that poisons our society and polity, the undermining of facts and rational discourse, the chilling of free speech. We might in some ways see the work we have undertaken together on sustainability as emblematic of these wider efforts. We have come to consider ourselves a living laboratory. Our research and engagement on environmental issues of course stretches well beyond our walls: our faculty, for example, have played critical roles in forging international climate agreements, have engineered innovative ways to create and store renewable energy, have influenced regulatory frameworks from Washington to Beijing, have explored the searing impact of climate change on health. But at the same time we have endeavored to make our own community a model for what might be possible—what we might hope for as we imagine the future. We have reduced our greenhouse gas emissions by 30%, our trash by 44%; we produce 1.5 megawatts of solar energy—enough to fuel 300 homes. We have programs experimenting with healthy building materials, green cleaning, and food waste, and we have constructed HouseZero, an energy neutral structure that is essentially an enormous computer generating data about every aspect of its operation and design, making information available to others as they build for the future. We seek to be a living experiment in other ways as well. We gather here in Cambridge, face to face in a residential educational setting because we regard this very community as an educational machine. I have often observed that Harvard is likely the most diverse environment in which most of our students have ever lived. We endeavor to attract talented individuals from the widest possible range of backgrounds, experiences and interests, the broadest diversity of geographic origins, socio-economic circumstances, ethnicities, races, religions, gender identities, sexual orientations, political perspectives. And we ask students to learn from these differences, to teach one another—and to teach us as well—with the variety of who they are and what they bring. This isn’t easy. It requires individuals to question long-held assumptions, to open their minds and their hearts to ideas and arguments that may seem not just unfamiliar, but even disturbing and disorienting. And it is an experiment that becomes ever more difficult in an increasingly polarized social and political environment in which expressions of hatred, bigotry, and divisiveness seem not just permitted but encouraged. But in spite of these challenges all around us, we at Harvard strive to be enriched, not divided by our differences. To sustain this vision of an educational community, we must be a living laboratory in another sense as well. We must be a place where facts matter, where reasoned and respectful discourse and debate serve as arbiters of truth. There has been much recent criticism of universities for not being sufficiently open to differing viewpoints. Protecting and nourishing free speech is for us a fundamental commitment, and one that demands constant attention and vigilance, especially in a time of sharp political and social polarization. The uncontrolled—and uncontrollable—cacophony that defines a university means we will inevitably sometimes fall short; we cannot always guarantee that every member of this community listens generously to every other. But that must simply motivate us to redouble our efforts. Silencing ideas or basking in comfortable intellectual orthodoxy independent of facts and evidence blocks our access to new and better ideas. We must be dedicated to the belief that truth cannot simply be asserted or claimed but must be established with evidence and tested with argument. Truth serves as inspiration and aspiration in all we do; it pulls us toward the future and its possibilities for seeing more clearly, understanding more fully, and improving ourselves and the world. Its pursuit is fueled by hope. Hope joins with truth as the as the very essence of a university. And so I come back to hope—the hope implicit in our efforts to model a different way for humans to live and work together, the hope in the ideas and discoveries that are the currency we trade in, the hope in the bright futures of those who graduate today. Yet as I step down from my responsibilities as Harvard president, I am keenly aware of another of hope’s fundamental attributes. It implies work still unfinished, aspirations not yet matched by achievement, possibilities yet to be seized and realized. Hope is a challenge. I think of the words the beloved late crew coach Harry Parker once spoke to a rower—words I quoted often during the campaign: “This is what you can be. Do you want to be that?” These are the words and the message I would like to leave with Harvard. The work is unfinished. The job remains still to be done in times that make it perhaps more difficult than ever. May we continue to challenge ourselves with the hope of all we can be and with the unwavering determination to be that. May Harvard be as wise as it is smart As restless as it is proud As bold as it is thoughtful As new as it is old As good as it is great.


Daybreak rituals

Seating for degree candidates in Tercentenary Theatre, with banners displaying arms of the various graduate and professional schools, and upperclass houses. Beyond the trees are the columns of Widener Library.
Seating for degree candidates in Tercentenary Theatre, with banners displaying arms of the various graduate and professional schools, and upperclass houses. Beyond the trees are the columns of Widener Library.

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.[8][9]

Morning Exercises

Morning Exercises are held in the central green of Harvard Yard (known as Tercentenary Theatre),[4] the dais at the steps of Memorial Church, facing Widener Library.[b] 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).[11]

Academic Parade

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.[12][13] Finally comes the Presi­dent's Procession, as follows:[3][14]

Holyoke Chair

The "bizarre" Holyoke Chair reserved for Harvard's president
The "bizarre" Holyoke Chair reserved for Harvard's president
At Cambridge. Is kept in the College there.
Seems but little the worse for wear.
That's remarkable when I say
It was old in President Holyoke's day.

Oliver Wendell Holmes
"Facts respecting an old arm-chair"
The Autocrat of the Breakfast-Table[21]

On the dais the Presi­dent occupies the Holyoke Chair, an uncom­fort­able[7] and treach­er­ous Jacobean turned 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." [22] 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 1737–69] come to sense what the job is all about." [f]


1947 honorands: J. Robert Oppen­heim­er (left), George C. Mar­shall (third left, speak­ing with Pres. James B. Conant), Omar N. Bradley (third right), T. S. Eliot (2nd right).
1947 honorands: J. Robert Oppen­heim­er (left), George C. Mar­shall (third left, speak­ing with Pres. James B. Conant), Omar N. Bradley (third right), T. S. Eliot (2nd right).

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." [7] 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,[citation needed] 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." [3]

Honorary degrees are then bestowed. Finally, all rise to sing "The Harvard Hymn",[24][25] expressing the hope (Integri sint curatores, Eruditi professores, Largiantur donatores‍—‌printed lyrics are supplied)[26] that the trustees, faculty and benefactors will manifest (respectively) integrity, wisdom, and generosity.[27] 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,[25] joined by bells throughout Cambridge for most of the following hour.[g]

Broadside, in Latin, for July 20, 1791 exer­cises. "The Illus­tri­ous John Han­cock, Esq., LL.D., Gover­nor; Honor­able Samuel Adams, Esq., Vice-Governor ..."
Broadside, in Latin, for July 20, 1791 exer­cises. "The Illus­tri­ous John Han­cock, Esq., LL.D., Gover­nor; Honor­able Samuel Adams, Esq., Vice-Governor ..."
Order of the Exercises (July 15, 1801) opening with "A Saluta­tory Oration in Latin"
Order of the Exercises (July 15, 1801) opening with "A Saluta­tory Oration in Latin"

Mid-day ceremonies

Seniors entering Sanders Theatre for Class Day exercises (late 19th or early 20th century)
Seniors entering Sanders Theatre for Class Day exercises (late 19th or early 20th century)

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.[28]

Historical notes


Lionel de Jersey Harvard (r) with fellow seniors, 1915
Lionel de Jersey Harvard (r) with fellow seniors, 1915
Outside Sever Gate, 2015
Outside Sever Gate, 2015

"Our fathers ... closely associated the thirst for learning and that for beer", a 1924 Harvard history observed,[29] 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.[7] 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." [29]

Thus in 1781,

For the preservation 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 ...[17]

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" [3]‍—‌for Harvard officials a recurring headache.[h]

Sartorial regulations

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.[27]

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." [30]

Commencement speakers

See also


  1. ^ [6][3] "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." [7]
  2. ^ [10] 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][citation needed]
  3. ^ a b The governor and sheriffs are among several public officials, not otherwise affiliated with Harvard, who have long taken part in the ceremonies.[clarification needed][17] 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 !'" [18]

    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?" [19]

  4. ^ "[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.[16]
  5. ^ "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." [3]
  6. ^ [21] 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.[22] "[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",[22] 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." [23]

    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 throughtlessly sat down on it. Whether or not the privilege was often or ever taken advantage of the present generation has no means of knowing." [23] The Fogg Museum now has custody between ceremonial uses.[21]

  7. ^ 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.[15]
  8. ^ 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 ..." [17]


  1. ^ "Honorary degrees awarded". Harvard Gazette. May 27, 2010.
  2. ^ Boatner, E.B. "Pumps and Circumstance: A Guide to Academic Garb". Harvard University. Retrieved November 25, 2013.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Hightower, Marvin. "The Spirit & Spectacle of Harvard Commence­ment". Harvard University. open access publication – free to read
  4. ^ a b "Morning Exercises". Harvard University Commence­ment Office. 2013. open access publication – free to read
  5. ^ "Honorary Degrees". Harvard University. Retrieved October 1, 2013.
  6. ^ Matthews, Albert (1917). "Harvard Commencement Days 1642–1916". Publications of the Colonial Society of Massachusetts: 309–84. open access publication – free to read
  7. ^ a b c d e Cromie, William J. (May 31, 2007). "Commencement feasting, customs, color date to medieval Europe". Harvard Gazette. open access publication – free to read
  8. ^ "Yard Ceremony". Lowell House.
  9. ^ Ireland, Corydon; Koch, Katie; Walsh, Colleen (May 26, 2011). "Moments that make Commence­ment". Harvard Gazette.
  10. ^ "2013 Commencement Seating, Tercentenary Theater, Morning Exercises". Harvard University Commence­ment Office. Retrieved October 10, 2013.
  11. ^ "Graduate and Professional Schools". Harvard University Commence­ment Office.
  12. ^ Callan, Richard L. (April 28, 1984). "100 Dears of Solitude: John Harvard Finishes His First Century". Harvard Crimson.
  13. ^ Rose, Cynthia (May 1999). "Reading the Regalia: A guide to deciphering the academic dress code". Harvard Magazine.
  14. ^ "Locations, Maps and Directions". Harvard University Commence­ment Office. 2013. open access publication – free to read
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