Commencement at Harvard is a day of formal ceremonies and poignant moments. Below are snippets of the latter, along with some context from celebrations past. (This file was topped with fresh vignettes throughout the day.)
Harvard’s tough, but the Marine Corps is tougher
Eliza Edwards, a newly minted A.L.M. graduate of Harvard Extension School, stood with her parents, Joel and Dana Edwards, amid the rapidly emptying chairs at Tercentenary Theatre after Harvard Alumni Association President Margaret Wang’s gavel closed Commencement ceremonies.
Joel and Dana Edwards said they’d been to other commencements before but were impressed by the way Harvard’s celebration included students from all Schools, not just undergraduates from the College. They also said that Harvard pulled off the difficult mix of honoring longstanding traditions while recognizing the personal meaning the daylong celebration holds for graduates and their families.
“I think it’s a unique experience that tries to blend the history together with today,” Joel said. “It’s a great experience.”
The ceremony was a first for Eliza, who missed her undergraduate commencement at Willamette University in Oregon after joining the Marine Corps just shy of the credits to graduate. She spent five years in the Corps, eventually earning her final credits at Willamette in 2014 and becoming a sergeant in signals intelligence.
After finishing at Willamette, she started taking courses at the Extension School, viewing lectures online while deployed in Uganda and Niger — or in Uganda, anyway. Internet service in Niger was spotty enough that she had to turn to her mother for help at times.
“My mom had to watch lectures when my internet went out for a while. She had to send me notes,” said Eliza, who is heading to law school in the fall. “It was fun.”
“It was a group effort here,” Dana added.
When asked which was harder, Harvard or the Marine Corps, Eliza said they’re pretty different, but the Defense Language Institute tips it toward the Marine Corps.
“The hardest school I ever went to was when I had to learn Arabic at DLI,” Eliza said.
— Alvin Powell