Andrew Vincent ’14 took the track less-traveled to graduation, allowing himself a breather from his studies on campus and an opportunity for a real-world experience that changed his academic direction.
“I took a semester off in my junior fall because I needed a break,” he said. “The following year I took a year off to work in a school, which actually was a really great thing because at the time I wanted to be in education and came out of that thinking I should do something else.”
Vincent was one of 91 College seniors who were honored at the Midyear Graduates Recognition Ceremony Dec. 5 at Knafel Center.
Each year, hundreds of family members, friends, classmates, professors, and school officials gather to celebrate the accomplishments of students who for a variety of reasons — early graduation, or time taken off for travel, personal pursuits, or family emergencies — graduate off-cycle.
Rakesh Khurana, the dean of Harvard College, shared with the students and audience his own experience as a midyear graduate. He said graduating in December was one the first unplanned events in his life.
“It was not something I had planned when I started college, but I think it was one of the best things that ever happened to me,” Khurana said. “As it turned out for me, and will for you, the unplanned creates conditions for serendipity. Serendipity, the unplanned, I believe, is a person’s best friend and the biggest part of exhilaration of the daily magic of discovery.”
Students arriving at Harvard often know what they plan to do with their lives and careers and have a precise list of steps to accomplish those goals, said Khurana. But an important lesson they need to learn is to be open to new opportunities and experiences, he said.
“I hope these last couple of years helped you understand that the unplanned and serendipitous is part of the learning process and not your enemy, but a challenging friend.”
In her faculty address, Diana Eck, the Frederic Wertham Professor of Law and Psychiatry in Society, also spoke to the students about the value of serendipity in a world full of challenges.
“We are worried, and rightly so, about ISIS, about Ebola, about Ferguson … about the countless issues that are ours in a turbulent world, and maybe we can think about that possibility of the planet becoming uninhabitable somewhat later,” she said. “But I would like to suggest that all of us, we and you alike, commit ourselves to retaining that split-screen world in which we hold our plans, our personal plans, our dreams, our abundant energies always and in juxtaposition with the images that disturb us and call us to everyday responsibility.”
Giacomo Barbone ’14, was chosen by the Senior Class Committee to reflect on his experience at Harvard College. He had Dante on his mind, as well.
“What I remember in this underworld most clearly is everyone’s passions, a passion beyond reason searching wide and far to make our talents shine, our relationships mature and our grades improve,” Barbone said.
Philip Lovejoy, executive director of the Harvard Alumni Association, reminded the students that their Harvard journey does not end when they leave campus. The community of Harvard alumni spans the globe and plays an important role in the future of the College, he said.
“You may have already tapped into the alumni community; it is a vast resource for you as you walk out of the gates of Harvard and embark on the next phase of your lives,” Lovejoy said. “And it is a resource I encourage you to tap into. The alumni association provides numerous channels for you to connect to that community.”