Seven Harvard undergrads received their military assignments during the ROTC commissioning ceremony at Tercentenary Theatre today.

Seven Harvard undergrads — Grace Chao (from left), Alannah O’Brien, Brandon Lee, Alana Davitt, Adrian Magana, David Schachman, and Peter Hartnett — received their military assignments during the ROTC commissioning ceremony at Tercentenary Theatre today.

Campus & Community

ROTC students receive their commissions

Seven undergraduates became officers during Harvard ceremony

4 min read

The cool climes didn’t dampen the spirits of the newly minted officers during their official joint Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) commissioning ceremony in Tercentenary Theatre on Wednesday. Seven Harvard undergraduates received their first military assignments during a celebratory service that included comments from Harvard President Larry Bacow, an address by Gen. Mark A. Milley, the 39th chief of staff of the U.S. Army, and rounds of hearty applause, handshakes, and hugs from family and friends.

Bacow told the soon-to-be-commissioned officers they would carry the enduring values of “libertas and veritas — liberty and truth” upheld by the military and by Harvard, and head into the future “prepared for the life that awaits you both by the training you have received here and by the education and knowledge you have gained here.”

Harvard’s 29th president called military service “the greatest demonstration of public service.” He said he hopes to strengthen the way in which Harvard acknowledges students and alumni who choose paths in the military, and to see more students receiving their commissions in coming years, “inspired and emboldened by the example set for them” by this year’s graduating seniors.

“You are — and you always will be — part of Harvard College Class of 2019,” said Bacow. “But you stand apart from your classmates. Your courage and your selflessness are worthy of praise, and your devotion to the ideals that created the United States of America is an inspiration to us all. Today, we honor your choice and we honor your service.”

Navy Ensign Adrian Magana receives a hug from his sister, Lorena A. Magana, as his mother Luz Maria Magana (from left), brother Daniel Magana, and father Miguel Magana share in the moment.

Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer

As part of the annual commissioning ceremony, the new officers pledge to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic” and to “bear true faith and allegiance to the same.”

Before they took that solemn oath, Milley told the seniors their military service and leadership will require competence, humility, and an unwavering respect for the nation’s founding principles.

“The idea that’s embedded in this oath that you are willing to die for, it says that everyone under those colors of red, white, and blue, under that flag, every one of us is born free and equal and you will rise based on your knowledge, your skill, your merit, and you are to be judged by the content of your character, not the color of your skin,” he said. “That is the essence of this country called the United States of America.”

In addition to the oath, the new leaders received their first salute and had their insignias pinned to their uniforms by family members and friends.

Harvard President Larry Bacow (left) speaks with General Mark A. Milley during there event.
Harvard President Larry Bacow (left) and Gen. Mark A. Milley at the ceremony. Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer

Army 2nd Lt. Grace Chao was swarmed by well-wishers after the service. An economics concentrator and a member of the Harvard women’s rugby team, Chao was selected to be an active-duty field artillery officer and will attend training in Fort Sill, Okla. “This is truly a dream come true for me,” she said. “I’ve watched three years of my best friends’ commissions and now it’s finally our day and I am just overjoyed that our families can be here too. The mission of Harvard College and the military is the same — to produce citizen leaders who serve selflessly — and I’ve learned how to do that at Harvard.”

In addition to Chao, the new officers are Army 2nd Lt. Alannah O’Brien, Marine Corps 2nd Lts. Brandon Lee and Peter Hartnett, and Navy Ensigns Alana Davitt, Adrian Magana, and David Schachman.

The day also included a commemoration for the Rev. Alan R. McLean, a member of the U.S. Marine Corps and a graduate of Harvard’s Class of 1966 who was severely wounded in the Vietnam War in 1967. McLean died in 2005.