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An omnium-gatherum of notes and statistics, vital and otherwise
AND A TICKET DOESN'T GUARANTEE A SEAT
A sign by Pusey Library seen the day before the great day offered a Commencement ticket for sale --for $150 or best offer. Earlier in the week, a sign by Piglet's house near the Science Center had advertised two for $75 each.
BLOWING HOT, COLD
Commencement impresarios took a few days to get the weather right. On the Monday of the week, fiftieth reunioners went to their afternoon symposium, "Technology Is Driving the Future," through embracing humidity and a temperature of 97 degrees Fahrenheit, a record for the date. The peonies in the perennial border in front of Loeb House were whimpering. Tuesday was a bit better: 92. Wednesday was plain cold--60 degrees in midafternoon, and grey--sweater weather. But Commencement Day was perfection: near cloudless, the firmament a pure, deep blue, kindly breezes, in the low 70s. These conditions persisted Friday and Saturday. The twenty-fifth reunioners come now on Tuesday and leave on Sunday--instead of their former Sunday-to-Friday behavior --so as to have a Saturday layover and lower airfares. Sunday was partly sunny as the last of them departed, full of the night before and its cocktails and dinner behind Harvard Stadium, its postprandial rock and roll to the music of The Fat City Band. Banners had been stowed, most chairs folded, and some tents collapsed, and the Yard's grass was on the comeback trail.
Marshal's aides wield batons (painted black with red ends) at Commencement. The wooden batons are crafted by H. Holton Wood '40, a retired investment counselor from Dedham, Massachusetts, and a member of the Harvard Alumni Association's Committee for the Happy Observance of Commencement. Wood works for fun, gratis, in his shop at home.
FOR THE RECORD
The University awarded 6,487 degrees and 339 certificates at its 348th Commencement, June 10. The colleges granted 1,659 degrees; 52 men and 34 women graduated summa cum laude, up from last year's total of 70. The Law School released 710 graduates into the world, among them Julian Wing-Kai Poon, only the second person to earn a J.D. summa since 1982. H.A.A. outgoing president Ciji Ware, speaking at the association's annual meeting on Commencement afternoon, reported that 20 classes were reuning, with 384 classmates plus family or guests for the fiftieth and 553 classmates-plus for the twenty-fifth. Attendance for the twenty-fifth was down from the 700-plus of last year, but the class gift of $14 million was the second highest in history, again bested by the class of '73 (for more about annual giving, see "Recordbreakers"). Six alumnae from the Radcliffe class of 1929 celebrated their seventieth reunion. Some 29,000 participants packed the Yard on Commencement morning. There were no spectators.
THE MASSACHUSETTS MOUNTIES
The sheriffs of Middlesex and Suffolk Counties, who came to Commencement on horseback, let it be known that they wished to ride into Tercentenary Theatre at the head of the procession, but the Harvard powers-that-be refused, despite assurances that the horses were used to crowds. Moreover, marshal's aide Peter McKinney, former associate dean, who would have marched behind the horses, allegedly refused to carry a push-broom. At 9:15, when the Commencement caller summoned the president's division to the line of march, the worthies fell in briefly behind the mounted sheriffs, prompting the caller to announce, "The president's division is now advancing, led by the cavalry." But the sheriffs, dutifully, soon dismounted. They evidently had so enjoyed their equestrian outing that they kept the horses on hand and rode them here and there in the Old Yard, aimlessly but harmlessly, at lunchtime. During the morning exercises, President Rudenstine called upon Middlesex sheriff James DiPaola, a ham, to intervene when degree candidates from the Business School cheered themselves excessively. The sheriff rose from his seat at the edge of the stage, strode imperiously forward, and demanded order, which did indeed ensue.
GREENSPAN THE JOKER
Fed chairman Alan Greenspan uttered a few words at the chief marshal's Thursday luncheon, held in a tent next to Loeb House. Casting an eye around the tent, he revealed, "I have instructed that the Boston area be wholly exempt from any directives of the Fed about excess liquidity."
DEGREES IN ABSENTIA?
When Harvard offers an honorary degree, it makes clear to the honorand that he or she must collect the degree at the designated hour in person. No appearance, no degree--that's the custom. One of this year's recipients was to be the sculptor Louise Bourgeois. But on the day before Commencement, her son, Jean-Louis Bourgeois '62, told Harvard that his mother, who is 87, had been felled by a bad cold as she was preparing to board a train from Manhattan to Boston and could not come. Such eventualities are one reason Harvard likes to keep the identity of its honorands secret until the last moment. The Harvard Crimson, however, which possessed a list of expected honorands, published the roster in its Commencement edition without deleting Louise Bourgeois's name. That she had been an intended honorand might have become public in any case because on the afternoon of Commencement day Jean-Louis (son of the late art historian Robert Goldwater '29, A.M. '31, and brother of Alain Bourgeois, J.D. '66), who had come to Harvard from New Mexico for the festivities, protested Harvard's refusal to grant his mother an honorary degree in absentia. For whose benefit is an honorary degree, the recipient's or Harvard's? he demanded. "Is an honorary an award for outstanding achievement, or is the Commencement ceremony merely a show? Harvard is not answering that."
Peter J. Gomes, the Plummer professor of Christian morals and Pusey minister in the Memorial Church, often has the last word. In his chapel address to seniors on Commencement morning--which the contingent from Eliot House was 25 minutes too late to attend--Gomes focused on a phrase, "which comes from a friend in England who this last autumn won £5,000,000 in the lottery. When asked how he felt about it, he replied that he was 'overwhelmed by opportunity.'...To be overwhelmed by opportunity is to be able to appreciate fully what you can contemplate only partially, to be intimate with the immensity of life and not intimidated. If your Harvard consisted only of the facts of what you did rather than the experience of what you could have done, and if your life follows the same unimaginative pattern, then you will have missed out on a great deal and will continue to do so. I wish that you all, therefore, continue to be overwhelmed by opportunity."
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