Founded in 1636, Harvard did not hold its first Commencement until Sept. 23, 1642 — with just nine students graduating that year. War and plague halted a handful of Commencement Exercises, but fortunately, the tradition has held fast with a growing number of degree recipients. In 2019, Harvard awarded 6,665 degrees across the University.
Degree candidates with their family and friends, faculty, administrators who supported them, and alumni from around the world are anticipated to participate in Harvard’s 369th Commencement Exercises on May 28.
To accommodate the increasing number of people planning to attend, carefully review the additional guidelines governing ticketing, regalia, security precautions, and other important details, which are available online.
On Commencement morning, the Harvard gates will open at 6:45. A ticket is required to gain entry into Tercentenary Theatre, the site of the Morning Exercises.
Commencement Day overview
The Morning Exercises begin when the academic procession is seated in Tercentenary Theatre. Three student orators deliver addresses, and the dean of each School introduces the candidates for their respective degrees, which the president then confers. Toward the conclusion of the ceremony the graduating seniors are asked to rise, and the president confers their degrees on them as a group. Honorary degrees are then conferred before the Exercises are adjourned.
Diploma-granting ceremonies and luncheons: Graduates and their guests return to their respective undergraduate Houses or graduate and professional Schools. Harvard and Radcliffe College alumni/ae who have celebrated their 50th Reunion are invited to join the Tree Spread luncheon, while all other alumni may pre-purchase tickets for boxed lunches at the Alumni Spread in Harvard Yard.
The Afternoon Program features an address by Harvard President Larry Bacow and principal speaker Martin “Marty” Baron. Officially called the Annual Meeting of the Harvard Alumni Association (HAA), this program includes the Overseer and HAA director election results, presentations of the Harvard Medal, and remarks by the HAA president.
For general information about Commencement, including event schedules, maps, accommodations for guests with disabilities, and more, visit the Harvard University Commencement Office website.