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Commencement

Harvard Graduation, in the Lambert Clan

6.6.14

Joan Lambert among the 2014 graduates

Joan Lambert among the 2014 graduates

Photograph by Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Public Affairs and Communications

In retrospect, it seems almost as if Joan D. Lambert ’55, A.L.B. ’73, Ed.M. ’74, waited to receive her undergraduate diploma until she could take it from familiar—in fact, family—hands.  She completed her Extension degree when her son, Huntington “Hunt” Lambert, was only a boy. Today, he serves as dean of continuing education and University Extension (see a profile of him here). Having been appointed in 2013, he awarded the Extension diplomas for the first time at Commencement this May. 

As it turns out, Joan Lambert didn’t walk in the Commencement procession in 1973 mostly because she was then a rather private and retiring personality. (Her decanal son is quite the opposite.) “I had four children then, and another one of them was graduating,” she explains. “I simply didn’t have time.” But this year she did don an academic gown and mortarboard, process with the other degree recipients and, at the Extension School ceremonies in the Northwest Science Building, receive her diploma—this time in person, rather than by mail.

“I told the gathering [at Northwest] that I understood what they had been through as adults with family members who were studying for degrees,” Hunt Lambert says. “Mom disappeared when I was 10 years old to take courses at Harvard Extension. At the time, I resented it, and it was challenging. Later I discovered what she had accomplished. Later yet, I taught in the evening and got an even better sense of how much it takes to do this.”

Joan Lambert recalls, “It was very unusual in my day for a woman with children to go back and earn a college degree. Most institutions at that time would not take students who weren’t of the ‘normal’ student age. I have always felt grateful to Harvard Extension for having a more inclusive admissions policy. When Hunt became its dean, that just felt wonderful.”

After earning her Ed.M., Joan Lambert, who lives in New London, New Hampshire, enrolled as a doctoral candidate at New York University, where she did research on human evolution, particularly female evolution. This work eventually grew into a novel, Circles of Stone (1997), which remains in print and has two self-published sequels. She has also self-published four English-style murder mysteries, beginning with Walking into Murder in 2009. She was gratified to see Circles of Stone on display at the Harvard Coop during Commencement week.    

Commencement Day itself, beginning with breakfast for all degree recipients at Extension headquarters on Brattle Street, “was just gorgeous,” she says. “I appreciated it more this year than I might have in my forties. I was kind of overwhelmed.”

Updated 9-27-14 to insert Joan Lambert’s Radcliffe class.

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