“Like you, I’ve recently moved into Harvard Yard,” President Larry Bacow told first-year students at Monday’s convocation. “Like you, I’ve arrived here in the hope that I can make a unique contribution.”

Jon Chase/Harvard Staff Photographer

Campus & Community

A warmth to beat the heat

President Bacow and others welcome members of Class of ’22 at convocation

5 min read

With a communal warmth much more welcoming than the 90-degree heat, Harvard College’s Class of 2022 filled Tercentenary Theatre on Monday afternoon for First-Year Convocation to listen to lessons on fellowship and friendship, responsibility and reward that can last well beyond the school year.

Welcoming his “fellow members of the Class of 2022,” new President Larry Bacow emphasized the collaborative nature of the College experience during his convocation address. Urging the first-years to commit to becoming citizens of the world as well as of Harvard, he called on them to “discover what matters to you most and determine how you can make the world a better place.”

The first-years — attired in a mix of summertime finery and academic regalia — had filed into the tree-shaded theater to “Fanfare for the Class of 2022,” composed and conducted by Joanna Tao ’19 and performed by the Harvard University Band.

“The camaraderie is really amazing,” said Audrey Foster, as she filmed her son Daniel enter with his mates from Canaday Hall. “The last couple of days, he’s really become part of the Harvard community.”

The Rev. Jonathan L. Walton, Plummer Professor of Christian Morals and Pusey Minister in the Memorial Church, opened the addresses with an invocation suggesting the first-years “privilege integrity over achievement, intellectual curiosity over accomplishments, and moral character over accolades.” Urging students to express “grace and gratitude toward one another,” he encouraged them to respect not only deans but dining-hall staff, not only classmates but custodians, to “prioritize human fellowship.”

Students unfurl their Class of 2022 banner at the First-Year Convocation.

Jon Chase/Harvard Staff Photographer

Welcoming Harvard’s 371st class, which Dean of Students Katy O’Dair noted was the University’s “fourth Class of ’22,” O’Dair focused on fresh starts. Calling the beginning of the College experience a rare opportunity “to push the reset button,” she noted, “You have a new opportunity to define who you are. You can also choose what you leave behind.”

Following a soulful musical interlude by the Harvard Choruses, accompanied by chirping crickets, Bacow welcomed the first-years with an optimistic and warmly collegial address.

“Please feel free to call me Larry,” he began, noting that this is his first year as well. “Like you, I’ve recently moved into Harvard Yard. Like you, I’ve arrived here in the hope that I can make a unique contribution.”

Like many members of the incoming class’s 1,661 members, who hail from 85 countries, Bacow, M.P.P. ’76, J.D. ’76, Ph.D. ’78, made it to Harvard despite family hardships. The son of refugees, he talked about growing up in a blue-collar Michigan town and the lessons he learned. “You should never judge your insides by other people’s outsides,” he said. “No one you will meet at Harvard is perfect, and that includes your president.

“Everyone you meet here is unique,” Bacow said. “And everyone has his or her own story — and every single one of you was admitted because we saw something in you that we believed would enrich this special community.”

During what he estimated would be 21,000 hours at Harvard, Bacow urged the first-years to “invest in … getting to know one another.” Listen to each other, he suggested. “Embrace the challenging work of trying to understand the world from a perspective other than your own.”

“College is not a stop on the way to the rest of your life. This is your life,” Danoff Dean of Harvard College Rakesh Khurana told the Class of 2022.

Jon Chase/Harvard Staff Photographer

Bacow also handed out the class’ first homework assignment by asking those eligible to vote to register via the Kennedy School Institute of Politics’ iop.turbovote.org.

“If you don’t think that the world is perfect, the only way it gets better is if good people like you work to repair it,” he said. “Harvard has endured over centuries not because it is great but because it is good, and I look forward to learning about the ways in which you choose to grow in goodness — and in wisdom — over the next four years.”

Danoff Dean of Harvard College Rakesh Khurana, who is also the Marvin Bower Professor of Leadership Development, professor of sociology, and faculty dean of Cabot House, hewed to the theme of community and participation. Urging the first-years to seek a transformational, rather than a transactional, education, he stressed, “College is not a stop on the way to the rest of your life. This is your life.”

Image 1: Margaret Wang ’09, president of the Harvard Alumni Association, takes a photo of first-year students as President Bacow chats with Andrew Clark, director of choral activities. Image 2: Franck Germain ’22 (from left), Sophia Vranos ’22, and Carly Tiras ’22 sing “Fair Harvard” at the conclusion of Monday’s convocation in Tercentenary Theater.

Jon Chase/Harvard Staff Photographer

Hope, as well as perseverance, was given voice by the Kuumba Singers, under the direction of Sheldon X.K. Reid, before Jenna Gray ’19, a student adviser on international education, addressed the crowd. She spoke about studying outside the U.S.

“An international experience can help you grow,” she said as she talked bicycling in Copenhagen. Despite mishaps on the road, she said, she learned the truth of the old adage, “It’s the journey, not the destination.”

Margaret Wang ’09, president of the Harvard Alumni Association, “warmly welcomed” the first years. (“It’s a weather joke,” she noted to appreciative chuckles.) Joining the banners of current undergraduate classes for the first time, the Class of 2022 flag was unveiled to rousing cheers. Associate Dean of Students Lauren Brandt then introduced the first-years’ four resident deans: Madeleine Currie, Katie Derzon, Dwight Fee, and Jasmine Waddell.

“Our community gets rebuilt each year, with each class that arrives,” Brandt said.