Campus & Community

Commencement Week: The long winding train

6 min read

Inscribed on Harvard Yard’s Science Center Gate is an 1836 journal entry by poet and essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson, Class of 1821, that expresses the special spirit of Harvard’s annual Commencement, which even then was steeped in time-honored traditions:

I went to the College Jubillee on the 8th instant. A noble & well thought of anniversary. The pathos of the occasion was extreme & not much noted by the speakers. Cambridge at any time is full of ghosts; but on that day the anointed eye saw the crowd of spirits that mingled with the procession in the vacant spaces, year by year, as the classes proceeded; and then the far longer train of ghosts that followed the Company, of the men that wore before us the college honors & the laurels of the state, the long winding train reaching back into eternity.

These photographs offer a tribute to the women and men of the Class of 2011, who become the most recent link in the “long winding train” of Harvard graduates.

Members of the Class of 2011 enter the transept of Memorial Hall to attend the Phi Beta Kappa Literary Exercises in Sanders Theatre. Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer
Evelynn M. Hammonds (from left), William Clark, Henri Cole, Dudley Herschbach, Lawrence Buell, and Dorothy Austin attend the Phi Beta Kappa Literary Exercises. Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer
Author Joyce Carol Oates gives the oration during the Phi Beta Kappa Literary Exercises. Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer
Seniors get settled in the theater before the Phi Beta Kappa Literary Exercises begin. Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer
Harvard University President Drew Faust speaks to the Class of 2011 during the Baccalaureate Service inside the Memorial Church. Justin Ide/Harvard Staff Photographer
Dany Thorpe ’11 looks back while waiting for the Baccalaureate Service to begin. Justin Ide/Harvard Staff Photographer
Harvard President Drew Faust (left) speaks with Maj. Gen. James McConville prior to the Harvard ROTC Class of 2011 Commissioning Ceremony in the Tercentenary Theatre. Justin Ide/Harvard Staff Photographer
2nd Lt. Christopher Higgins has his bars placed on him by his mother and sister while his grandmother looks on during the ROTC Commissioning Ceremony. Justin Ide/Harvard Staff Photographer
During the ROTC Commissioning Ceremony, Navy Midshipman James Reach (right) gets his first salute from his grandfather, Patrick Manzi, a U.S veteran. Justin Ide/Harvard Staff Photographer
Paul Farmer, Kolokotrones University Professor at Harvard University, delivers the Commencement address at the Harvard Kennedy School. Justin Ide/Harvard Staff Photographer
Amy Poehler (from left) chats with Tobias Stein '11 and Eric Hysen ’11 during the 2011 Class Day Exercises. Katherine C. Cohen/Harvard Staff Photographer
Outside Widener Library, Alana Biden ’11 (right) meets with her uncle, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden. Rose Lincoln/Harvard Staff Photographer
Dillon Powers ’11 sings “Ode to Kirkland” inside Kirkland's dining hall on Commencement Day. Justin Ide/Harvard Staff Photographer
Members of Kirkland House process to Commencement. Justin Ide/Harvard Staff Photographer
Graduates crowd into the Memorial Church for the Morning Chapel Service. Jon Chase/Harvard Staff Photographer
At the Memorial Church Lauren White ’11 attends Morning Chapel Service. Kris Snibbe/Harvard Staff Photographer
Matt Cavedon '11 attends Morning Chapel Service. Kris Snibbe/Harvard Staff Photographer
A brass band plays outside the Memorial Church. Brooks Canaday/Harvard University
Harvard President Drew Faust leads the procession to the Commencement exercises. Justin Ide/Harvard Staff Photographer
Middlesex County Sheriff Peter Koutoujian calls Commencement to order. Justin Ide/Harvard Staff Photographer
Katie J. Coulson ’11 delivers the undergraduate oration during Commencement. Brooks Canaday/Harvard University
Honorary degree recipient Associate Justice of the Supreme Court Ruth Bader Ginsburg (left) hugs honorary degree recipient Plácido Domingo during Commencement. Brooks Canaday/Harvard University
Harvard Kennedy School students cheer and hold up inflatable globes during Commencement. Brooks Canaday/Harvard University
Extension School graduates Doug Gavel, A.L.M. (from left), Rose Lincoln, A.L.B. and Evan Whitney, A.L.M. celebrate together at Commencement. Kris Snibbe/Harvard Staff Photographer
Students share a hug after receiving their degree. Justin Ide/Harvard Staff Photographer
The family of Olivia Goldhill ’11 celebrates her graduation during Commencement. Jon Chase/Harvard Staff Photographer
Paul Finnegan ’11 rests momentarily during Commencement. Kris Snibbe/Harvard Staff Photographer
Harvard College Dean Evelynn M. Hammonds, Barbara Gutmann Rosenkrantz Professor of the History of Science and of African and African American Studies, congratulates students who graduated with high honors during Commencement. Kris Snibbe/Harvard Staff Photographer
Dressed in traditional Nigerian attire, Khalidah Aderonke Bello HSPH '11 thanks her mother Toyosi Bello-Akinyele during Commencement. Kris Snibbe/Harvard Staff Photographer
Harvard Band member Duncan Watts '12 curls up under his sousaphone during Commencement. Kris Snibbe/Harvard Staff Photographer
George Barner ’29, who is 102 years old, processes to the Tercentenary Theatre during the alumni parade. Brooks Canaday/Harvard University
The oldest Harvard graduate at Afternoon Exercises, Donald F. Brown ’30, A.M. ’35, Ph.D. ’55, of Stow, Mass., dances during Afternoon Exercises. Both George Barner (not pictured) and Donald Brown are 102, though Brown is a month older. Kris Snibbe/Harvard Staff Photographer
Tiffany Smalley '11 receives a special degree from President Drew Faust, awarded posthumously to Joel Iacoomes, Harvard College Class of 1665, during Harvard’s 360th Commencement. On the right is Cheryl Andrews-Maltais, chairwoman of the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah). Kris Snibbe/Harvard Staff Photographer
Her Excellency Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, president of the Republic of Liberia, delivers her address in the Afternoon Exercises as Harvard University celebrates its 360th Commencement. Justin Ide/Harvard Staff Photographer
Liberia’s Senior Deputy Chief of Protocol Ethel Holt Toles (from left), Milen King, and Liberian Ambassador to the United States William Bull, listen to Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, (not pictured) as she speaks during Afternoon Exercises. Kris Snibbe/Harvard Staff Photographer
Tiffany Fereydouni ’11 is congratulated at Currier House after receiving her diploma. Katherine C. Cohen/Harvard Staff Photographer
Julie Anne Arnous receives her degree at Kirkland House from House Master Verena Conley. Justin Ide/Harvard Staff Photographer
The Straus Cup is polished before the conferring of diplomas at Winthrop House. Brooks Canaday/Harvard University
Adams House co-Masters Sean and Judith Palfrey (right) award a degree to David Wakulich ’11 during the graduation ceremony at Adams House. Kris Snibbe/Harvard Staff Photographer
Susan Zhu '11 gets a congratulatory hug from Dunster House Co-Master Ann Porter at the House diploma ceremony. Jon Chase/Harvard Staff Photographer

— Kris Snibbe