Giving their black caps and gowns a trial run, the graduating seniors inducted into Phi Beta Kappa (PBK) were honored for their exceptional academic achievements Tuesday morning during the 229th Literary Exercises at Sanders Theatre before family, friends, Harvard College Dean Rakesh Khurana, and President Larry Bacow.
One hundred and sixty-eight students chosen by Harvard faculty and senior staffers who are also Phi Beta Kappa members were inducted into Alpha Iota of Massachusetts at Harvard College, the School’s PBK chapter. In addition to a stellar grade point average and letters of recommendation, students are chosen for the breadth, originality, and rigor of their undergraduate course of study. A maximum of 10 percent of any graduating class can be selected each year.
Poet Dan Chiasson, Ph.D. ’01, poetry critic for The New Yorker for nearly two decades and a contributing critic at The New York Review of Books, as well as a poetry teacher at Wellesley College, read “The Math Campers,” a poem he wrote for the event.
The nine-stanza poem begins with the “bleak” outlook the planet now faces, but yields to a story inspired by Chiasson’s native Vermont, where brilliant students at math camp manage to devise an equation to stop time so summer never ends:
Now, in the interval between
Dodge ball and snack, the Math Campers
They solve to make the summer longer.
They’ve measured out the summer
With the math they’ve done so far;
If they want a longer summer,
Oh, they’ll have to practice harder —
For every correct answer, one more hour;
A furlough from the changing leaves.
The daisies cheer from the bleachers,
And bumblebees gossip about love.
MIT Professor Eric S. Lander, the president and founding director of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard — and yes, once a math camper — gave the traditional Phi Beta Kappa oration.