The sea of caps and gowns, many decorated with colorful regalia, is a memorable sight in Harvard’s Tercentenary Theatre on Commencement Day. But glance beyond the graduates and you’ll find an even larger gathering. Spectators, holding cameras, video recorders, bunches of flowers, and programs, fill every corner of the yard, stretching to the highest perches on the Widener Library steps. Parents, siblings, spouses, and friends — they form a grinning, proud pride. Staff members, working hard to make the University flow, pause and watch their favorite students on the cusp of their next chapter. Behind the success of each graduate stand the spectators. They come from next door, they come from around the globe, but they stand together and celebrate Commencement Day.

1 The Morning Exercises take place in Tercentenary Theatre. Family members watch graduates process in front of the steps of Widener Library during the Commencement ceremony of 2010. Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer
2 Harvard University’s Senior Class Day Exercises take place in Tercentenary Theatre. Christiane Amanpour, CNN’s Chief International Correspondent, is the featured speaker. The crowd of gathered seniors and their families listens to the speakers. Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer
3 Marie Gerard (from left) and Joan Arruda watch graduates process past a window in Leverett House in 2012. Rose Lincoln/Harvard Staff Photographer
4 Ethel Holt Toles (from left), Protocol to Her Excellency Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Milen King, and Ambassador William Bull, Liberian Ambassador to the United States, listen to Her Excellency Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, (not pictured) The President of the Republic of Liberia, as she speaks during the 2011 afternoon exercises at Harvard University Commencement. Kris Snibbe/Harvard Staff Photographer
5 Family members gathered on the steps of Widener Library to listen to the program in 2010. Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer
6 Parents and family members stand along Massachusetts Avenue waiting for a glimpse of their graduates as they process into Tercentenary Theatre in 2010. Actress Meryl Streep was one of the honorary degree recipients during the morning exercises. Rose Lincoln/Harvard Staff Photographer
7 In 2009, Leonvil Altidor (from left) and Andree-Rose Saint-Cyr, custodians in Thayer Hall, watch the Baccalaureate Procession through Harvard Yard. Rose Lincoln/Harvard Staff Photographer
8 Yuliana Sedlacek peeks through the gathered graduates in Memorial Church during the 2008 Baccalaureate Service. Author J.K. Rowling delivered the commencement address for the class of 2008. Photo by Matt Craig
9 Family members including Maite Garcia de Albeniz (center) crowd onto the steps of Widener Library during the 2012 Commencement ceremony in Tercentenary Theatre. Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer
10 Jason Aaron Katz (from left), Rebecca Hart, and Ricky Hart watch the Morning Exercises in 2010. Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer
11 Family members watched as graduates processed through Tercentenary Theatre in 2010. Former Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court David Souter ’61, LL.B. ’66, delivered the Commencement address during the Afternoon Exercises. Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer
12 The view from atop the steps of Widener Library is pictured during the 2010 Commencement ceremony. Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer
13 Miranda Shugars ’14 (from left), Steph Hadley ’15, Kathryn Reed ’13, Leonie Oostrom ’15, and Christine Mansour ’15, all members of dorm crew, take a break to watch the ceremony from the windows of Sever Hall during the 2012 Commencement. Rose Lincoln/Harvard Staff Photographer
14 Laura Togut ’08 (from left), Rory Sullivan ’09, and Virginia Anderson ’08 are cheerful despite the rain during the 2008 Senior Class Day exercises. Kris Snibbe/Harvard Staff Photographer
15 Marylynn Antonellis (center) tries desperately to attract the attention of her daughter Annie ’09 outside Memorial Church, as husband Joe attempts a photo from behind his wife’s outstretched hand. Jon Chase/Harvard Staff Photographer
16 Parents cluster like a media horde, cameras in hand, as they photograph their kids before the Class of 2009 official photo on the steps of Widener Library. Jon Chase/Harvard Staff Photographer
17 John Xi (left), from Chicago, father of Joy Xi ’09, joins other parents in photographing their kids during the Class of 2009 official class photo, while son Matt, age 10, can’t stifle a yawn during the proceedings. Jon Chase/Harvard Staff Photographer
18 Family members crowd the steps of Widener Library during Commencement 2009 inside the Tercentenary Theatre. United States Secretary of Energy Steven Chu delivers the Commencement address in the afternoon exercises. Kris Snibbe/Harvard Staff Photographer
19 Family members watch and photograph graduates process into the theatre for the Morning Exercises in 2010. Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer
20 Harvard University President Drew Faust (from center) and Ravi Parikh look out the window watching the graduates line up to process into Memorial Church for the 2009 Baccalaureate Service. Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer
Part of Gazette Topic: Commencement 2013