Campus & Community

Time of their lives

8 min read

Lippizzan ladies

Christine lifted her hoof and pulled it several times across the ground.

“Christine, stop it now. Behave yourself,” Kelly Flynn gave the horse a meaningful look that stopped her momentarily, but a few seconds later she was at it again.

“She wants to eat the grass,” Flynn explained. “It’s sort of like waving a lollipop in front of a little kid and then not letting her have it.”

Flynn is a horse handler and trainer for the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office. This is the second Commencement to which she has brought Christine and Anna, two white Lipizzan mares, to be ridden in a ceremonial turn about the Yard by James DiPaola, sheriff of Middlesex County, and Richard Rouse, sheriff of Suffolk County. The horses belong to the Massachusetts Army National Guard Ceremonial Unit.

Christine and Anna, whom Flynn believes are in their late 20s, belong to a breed with a distinguished pedigree. Developed in the 16th century by the Hapsburg monarchy, Lipizzans are known worldwide for an advanced form of dressage requiring them to stand and walk upright on their hind legs.

Christine and Anna have never learned these demanding moves (known as “airs above the ground”), but they are authentic Lipizzans nonetheless, direct descendents of the original Viennese show horses that were rescued by Gen. George Patton at the end of World War II (an event portrayed in the 1963 Disney movie Miracle of the White Stallions).

They do know how to walk in strict formation, however, as they demonstrated early Commencement morning when the two sheriffs rode them through the Old Yard, much to the delight of the graduates and their families.

“I did some riding as a boy,” DiPaola said. “We usually practice precision drill two or three times during the year to stay in practice. It takes some talent to keep them walking next to each other.”

Besides riding through the Yard, DiPaola has another responsibility at Commencement. It is he who officially begins the proceedings by banging his silver-headed truncheon three times on the Tercentenary stage.

“For me it’s a tremendous honor,” he said. “There’s a lot of history and tradition behind it. It’s an exciting day for me. My mother is very proud of me too. She always watches it on television from Malden.”

Cap and leash

Christine and Anna were not the only nonhumans to take part in Commencement. A surprising number of dogs were present as well. One of them was Cocoa, a 2-year-old brown miniature poodle wearing a grape-colored Harvard sweater, was conspicuously inattentive during the afternoon exercises, dividing his time between visiting nearby audience members, rolling on the ground, and biting his leash.

“He’s had a wonderful time. He’s met lots of other dogs here,” said his owner, Margerie Gruen Myers ’65, who came from Washington, D.C., with her husband Bob Myers. “We bought the sweater from the Harvard Coop, but have you seen the rest of his outfit?”

Holding Cocoa in her arms, she slipped onto his head a tiny black graduate’s cap.

‘I’ll limp through.’

There may be a jungle “out there” awaiting Harvard’s class of 2000, but anthropology concentrator Rachel Nelson discovered that just getting there can be hazardous.

Nelson sat on a folding chair in Harvard Yard Thursday morning as her fellow Eliot House residents stood in line nearby, preparing for the procession into Tercentenary Theatre. Nelson was sporting a pair of crutches to support her newly broken foot, injured when she tripped over a shoe while moving out of Eliot House.

Though Nelson decided not to stand waiting for the procession to begin, she said she wouldn’t miss the march into Tercentenary Theater.

“I’m going to go in on my crutches. I’ll limp through; it’ll be great,” Nelson said.

An Apple a day

Two spectators weren’t waiting for the speeches to start the action. Wayne Jones, who received a master’s degree from the Divinity School Thursday, but who declined to participate in the pomp and circumstance, was joined by Harvard junior Geoffrey Harriman ’01 in a little cyber time-killing.

The two had to come at least as spectators – Jones said he couldn’t miss his girlfriend’s graduation – but ultimately decided they could hear just as well away from the crowds and moved their folding chairs to the quadrangle in front of Houghton Library.

As others filed in looking for seats, the two were settled comfortably in the shade. They had their trusty Macintosh laptops out, wired together and running a computer game to kill the time.

“It’s just one of those situations where we just couldn’t miss it [the ceremony],” Jones said.

Mortarboard items

“2000” made of yellow paper

Red roses

The letters “ESQ” on a mortarboard of a Law School graduate.

“Harvard needs a living wage”

Compact discs

Golden tinsel halos, on the mortarboards of Divinity School students

Notable quote from the Latin Salutatory:

“Intuens vero socios scholasticos minime dubito quin super omnes ceteros excelsuri simus. Sed nunc, nunc prospicio nec cerno quemquam qui possit intellegere unum ex verbis quae loquor.”

(“I survey my fellow graduates, and I do not doubt that we will all excel above all others. But, now, now, I look out and realize that none of you can understand a single word I say.”)

– Kathleen A. Stetsko ’00

Notable quote from the Graduate English Address

“You must defend the defenseless.”

– Arese Ukpoma Carrington

‘We believe in learning forever and ever . . . ‘

Almost lost in the crowd during afternoon exercises on Commencement Day were two dignified, smiling ladies sitting front row, center at Tercentenary Theatre. They were impeccably dressed, wearing large red and white badges on their lapels designating the Radcliffe Class of 1930.

Ethelind Elbert Austin and Frances Addelson were together, but alone, as they marked their 70th reunion last Thursday. They were the only two women from their class in attendance.

Despite the bittersweet circumstances, Addelson and Austin were clearly overjoyed at the spectacle of the day. “We were really looking forward to this,” Addelson said. “And [the reunion] has fulfilled all of our expectations.”

The two longtime friends even made light of their aging. “We don’t feel any different than we used to. We’re still going at it,” Addelson explained. “I can’t see and she can’t hear, but we are using all the other powers we have to keep up with things.”

Addelson, who lives in Brookline, studied social ethics at Radcliffe. Later she became a social worker. Today, she remains a strong supporter of Harvard’s continuing education programs. “My Radcliffe education is still being used,” she insists. “We believe in learning forever and ever, and it all started right here at Radcliffe.”

Austin, from Norton, Mass., studied French at Radcliffe, and played on the school polo team. She traveled often after college, and remains athletic today. “I still ride horseback,” she said. “Nobody believes me, but I do.”

Fabulous at fifty

While only two members from the Radcliffe Class of 1930 attended the afternoon exercises, more than 400 members of the combined Class of 1950 marched into Harvard Yard for their 50th reunion. “The alumni parade in the morning was fabulous,” said Dick Burnstine ’50, a pediatrician from Glenco, Ill. “As you walked along, and heard the current graduates applauding you, you hope that it’s because of more than the fact that you’re still alive, and I think that it was.”

Burnstine, who also attended Harvard Medical School, turned a bit melancholy, however, as he discussed the passage of time. “We all find it very difficult to believe that 50 years have gone by,” he said. “It may be just because we’ve had such busy lives. That makes the time fly by quickly.”

Pat Hartford Keesee ’50, from Mt. Kisco, N.Y., was pensive as she surveyed the scene around her at Tercentenary Theatre. “Harvard Square has changed a lot over the years,” she commented. “But the Yard still looks the same.”

And as she turned to leave the Yard, she reflected on previous gatherings with old classmates at Harvard. “I’ve been to quite a few of these [reunions], but this one was the best… . I had a wonderful time.”

The Class of 1950 proved the power of a good slogan with their “50 for 50” campaign setting a $50 million goal for their 50th anniversary fundraising effort. The class beat the goal and set a fundraising record, donating $50,119,000, the most of any Harvard class ever, according to Harvard Alumni Association President T’ing Pei ’65.