Larry Bacow at the podium onstage in Sanders Theater.

University President Larry Bacow delivers his introductory comments during the celebration.

Photos by Jon Chase/Harvard Staff Photographer

Campus & Community

Three cheers for Harvard Heroes

3 min read

61 faculty and staff are celebrated for their contributions

Friends, family, and colleagues packed into Sanders Theatre on a rainy Thursday afternoon to celebrate 2019’s Harvard Heroes. The 61 honorees represented Schools and departments from across the University, from custodial services and catering to faculty affairs and fire safety.

University President Larry Bacow led the ceremony, praising each honoree for their achievements. He also had groan-worthy puns to spare.

“Your admirers say you deserve more than a little plaque for your good deeds,” Bacow said to Harvard School of Dental Medicine’s senior human resources coordinator Mary Anderson. “I guess a crown will do!”

In short videos presented during the ceremony, this year’s heroes shared their best — and weirdest — Harvard moments, including a first-year student asking whether he could microwave his laundry to dry it and being invited to a meeting at “U-Hall” (a.k.a. University Hall) and subsequently wandering the Yard looking for a moving truck.

A reception was held in Annenberg Hall, with drinks, charcuterie, and cake pops for all.

Director of Fellowship and Leadership Development Programs in the Center for Public Leadership Myrish Cadapan Antonio said she was “deeply humbled” by the award. “I am receiving this award for the collective, for the team,” she said. “So many people could have [earned] it. I feel blessed.”

Antonio was lauded for teaching and mentoring Mason Fellows, as well as helping to develop University training for cultural competency as a Harvard Administrative Fellow. She said she learned about her award when she was called into a team meeting with her manager.

“I thought I had done something wrong,” she recalled. “I was shocked!”

Campus Services fire safety supervisor Peter Underhill was also surprised by his colleagues.

Virginia Brooks laughs onstage
Two spectators wearing pink feather boas

Senior Regional Director Virginia Brooks of Alumni Affairs and Development laughs during her presentation; two spectators in colorful feather boas snap photos.

“My director pulled all the managers in the room for a training, but there were cupcakes,” he said. “There’s never cupcakes at trainings.”

He began as a technician for Fire Safety Services six years ago, and has been a supervisor for a year. During his first year as supervisor, he has worked to streamline the testing and inspection process for fire alarms, suppression systems, and emergency generators across campus.

Underhill is also studying business management with a minor in organizational behavior at Harvard Extension School, hoping to finish his bachelor’s degree next year.

“I’m going to class and then into the office and it applies immediately,” he said.

Surrounded by his family and friends, Brandon Tilghman, the academic appointments manager in the Office for Faculty Affairs at SEAS, said becoming a Harvard Hero was “overwhelming.” His team surprised him with balloons, treats, and even a video to catch his reaction.

During the 15 months he has worked at Harvard Tilghman said he’s gotten to know a lot of people across campus. He was commended for creating “innovative, inclusive ways for underrepresented members of the community to meet and network.”

“It surprised me that there’s a mission to diversify Harvard from the outside in,” he said. “I wasn’t expecting that to be embraced. Through the support of affinity groups and employee resource groups, [there is] encouragement of underrepresented minorities to unite.”

Bacow was beaming as he presented the awards.

“I think it was wonderful,” he said. “The best thing about Harvard is the people, and we were honoring all our people. What could be better?”