Campus & Community

Stories of the day: June 5, 2003 (Page 3)

4 min read

Words and pictures from Harvard’s 352nd Commencement

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Sharon and Evan
Mom gets a Ph.D. and all I get is this flat hat. Sharon Howell, resident tutor at Adams House and recipient of a doctorate in English literature, is accompanied to Commencement by her son Ethan, 8 months. (Staff photo by Jon Chase)

Peacock feathers and blarney

Harvard’s Department of Celtic Languages and Literatures granted three degrees this year – two M.A.s and one Ph.D. It was quite an event for this small but distinguished department (the only one in the United States to grant advanced degrees in the subject), and Assistant Professor Barbara Hillers wanted to make sure the achievement of the three students did not go uncelebrated. Standing under the champagne tent at the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Commencement luncheon, she held in her hand three peacock feathers, which she planned to present to the graduating students the moment they appeared.

Was the awarding of peacock plumes an old Celtic tradition, perhaps?

“Oh, yes,” the Irish-born Hillers replied solemnly. “It’s at least 5,000 years old.”

Department Chair Patrick Ford, standing nearby, guffawed softly, which seemed to induce his colleague to fess up.

“Actually, I bought them from the shop at the Science Museum not five minutes ago. I thought it might be a nice thing to do.”

Frik Nelson and Aaron
Frik Nelson lights up a cigar to celebrate, while his friend Aaron Lang gets misty in the background. (Staff photo by Kris Snibbe)

Marathon man

Before updating the Alumni Association on the state of the University in a speech that focused largely on initiatives to enhance undergraduate education, Summers recognized the accomplishments and long service to Harvard of Albert Gordon ’23. The lone celebrant of his 80th reunion, Gordon received the M.B.A. in 1925 and the LL.D. in 1977. He was an Overseer, the chair of the Harvard College fund, a president of the Harvard Club of New York City, and, in 1982 at age 80, a first-time marathoner.

“His has been a marathon of support for this University,” said Summers.

Neil Rudenstine and President
Former Harvard University President Neil Rudenstine chats with President Summers before the beginning of this year’s Commencement ceremonies. (Staff photo by Stephanie Mitchell)
Making it official, Jose Ignacio Aguilar Jr. of Winthrop House signs for his diploma during exercises in the courtyard. (Staff photo by Justin Ide)

There’s no place like the houses

Commencement ceremonies in the houses and at the professional schools, which follow the Morning Exercises with lunch and the actual presentation of diplomas, bring a cozy intimacy to a day filled with pomp and grandeur.

At Winthrop House, as grads mingled and noshed with friends and family, they capped their Harvard educations with the informality of a picnic in the cozy courtyard most of them called home for the past three years. Senior Jordan Webb felt so at home that he padded about the courtyard in a pair of bright yellow slippers shaped like bumblebees.

Not everyone appreciated Webb’s relaxed attire, however. “I’m his mother. I keep saying, ‘Ditch the slippers,’” said Susan De Saint Phalle.

Hermann Tribukait, new Ph.D., may or may not be snoozing behind his sombrero. (Staff photo by Kris Snibbe) 

House Masters Paul Hanson and Cynthia Rosenberger, leaving their post after nine years, were heartfelt in their brief remarks to the students.

“We’re graduating with you guys. This has been a wonderful house,” said Hanson, the Florence Corliss Lamont Professor of Divinity. “This is, in fact – and we don’t say this every year – a very, very special class of seniors.”

Not everyone in the Winthrop House ceremony was a senior: At the head of the diploma-receiving line were a handful of advanced-degree candidates who were tutors or affiliates of the house.

Paul Hanson with Mary Ellen Lennon and
Paul Hanson, Florence Corliss Lamont Professor of Divinity and (outgoing) master of Winthrop House (center), gives directions to Ph.D. recipient Mary Ellen Lennon (right) and her dad John Lennon just prior to the start of Winthrop House Commencement. (Staff photos by Justin Ide)

Mary Ellen Lennon, a Winthrop tutor for five years, chose to join her house rather than her academic colleagues at the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences to receive her Ph.D. in the history of American civilization.

“It’s more homey,” she said.

The ceremony was homey for undergraduates, too, most of whose diplomas were dispensed with hugs and kisses from Allston Burr Senior Tutor Courtney Bickel Lamberth.


The Baccalaureate procession, led by President Summers and the Rev. Professor Peter J. Gomes, passes by University Hall on its way to the Memorial Church. (Staff photo by Justin Ide)