Campus & Community

The splendid tapestry of Commencement

3 min read

Photos show the many sides of Harvard’s celebratory ritual

The 1,661 members of the Harvard College Class of 2016 graduated on Thursday, each with a unique story of toil and triumph through what many will look back on as the most tumultuous, challenging, and satisfying four years of their lives. For some graduates, it’s the story of another diploma in a generations-long legacy, with high expectations reinforced from birth. For others, it’s the story of the first-ever family member to progress past high school, the culmination of a parent’s dream realized through years of juggling child care and working arduous double shifts.

Photographs make visible the range of emotions felt on this day. Shrieks of exuberance, tears of joy, looks of quiet gratitude, and eyes wide with awe all show on the faces of these graduates. Photos, too, confirm their diversity, representing all 50 states plus Puerto Rico, and 51 countries, as well as the Oneida Nation within this country. Including the graduate schools, there were 7,727 degrees awarded. The grads are Muslim and Jew, Christian and Buddhist, raised on Park Avenue and in a cabin in the Appalachians, ranging in age from 16-70 (in the Extension School). They are bonded by their Harvard experience and woven together in the splendid tapestry that is Commencement.

The Class of 2016 celebrates Commencement week. Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer
Seniors joined by President Drew Faust (right) gather to process to their Baccalaureate Service in Memorial Church. Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer
The Class of 2016 gets into place before a class photo is taken on the steps of Widener Library. Kris Snibbe/Harvard Staff Photographer
Seniors flow out of Memorial Church. Rose Lincoln/Harvard Staff Photographer
James Clarke (center) is commissioned and pinned by his family at the ROTC commissioning ceremony in Tercentenary Theatre. Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer
Class Day Exercises featured speaker Rashida Jones ’97 (right), who posed for a selfie with students on the stage. Rose Lincoln/Harvard Staff Photographer
Harvard Business School graduates cross Weeks Bridge on their way to the 365th Commencement Exercises in Tercentenary Theatre. Rose Lincoln/Harvard Staff Photographer
Graduates pause for a photo while passing the John Harvard Statue. Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer
Seniors process into Memorial Church for the senior service. Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer
The honorary degree recipients pose for the annual group photo outside Massachusetts Hall. Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer
President Drew Faust greets graduates in the procession line. Jon Chase/Harvard Staff Photographer
Ikaika Ramones ’16 (left) and Kimiko Matsuda Lawrence ’16 await the procession into Tercentenary Theatre. Kris Snibbe/Harvard Staff Photographer
The sheriff of Middlesex County brings Commencement to order. Jon Chase/Harvard Staff Photographer
Honorary degree recipient Steven Spielberg is photographed by Mary L. Bonauto, who received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree. Kris Snibbe/Harvard Staff Photographer
Harvard Law School graduates celebrate. Jon Chase/Harvard Staff Photographer
Graduates are pictured during the Morning Exercises. Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer
Ivie Tokunboh (right) is photographed with Eunice Kim after receiving her degree at the diploma presentation and luncheon at Winthrop House. Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer
Kirin Gupta (right) shares a moment with her mother, Devika, after she receives her diploma. Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer
Commencement speaker Steven Spielberg (from left) gives his oration during the Annual Meeting of the Harvard Alumni Association (HAA) in Tercentenary Theatre. Harvard President Drew Faust and Bill Lee look on. Kris Snibbe/Harvard Staff Photographer
Leon Starr ’40, 97 years old, is the oldest male graduate attending the Annual Meeting of the Harvard Alumni Association (HAA) in the Tercentenary Theatre. Kris Snibbe/Harvard Staff Photographer