Alice Hill, '81, Ph.D. '91.

Harvard Alumni Association President Alice Hill ’81, Ph.D. ’91

Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard file photo

Campus & Community

A letter to the Class of 2020

4 min read

‘Harvard belongs to all of us,’ writes HAA President Alice Hill

Like you, I thought I knew exactly where I would be on May 28, 2020: in Tercentenary Theatre welcoming you to the Harvard Alumni community as president of the Alumni Association. As a parent, I was also looking forward to celebrating the graduation of my son, Hamish, from the College, together with his roommates Ana, Liz, and Spencer and their families.

While we have lost a magical day together, you have given us so much more to celebrate on May 28.

We — the entire alumni community — are proud of your class. Like your families, we are proud of your hard work and achievement and, like your families, we are overwhelmingly proud of the way you have met the challenges of this year.

To protect the people of Massachusetts from the COVID-19 pandemic you left your classes and, in many cases, your home at Harvard to move to a virtual mode of education. At the same time, you stepped up to serve your communities across the world. Some of you moved straight onto the front lines of the pandemic, like the Harvard Medical School Class of 2020 students who chose to graduate early so they could join the fight and those from the T.H. Chan School of Public Health who volunteered to provide the contact tracing system for Massachusetts. Others kept student-led organizations like the Phillips Brooks House Association, WHRB, and The Crimson operating. Business School students banded together to create networks that kept PPE flowing to Boston-area hospitals. You have reached out to mentor students whose elementary and high schools are closed, staged virtual voter registration drives, supported your families, fed medical workers, and more. My heart is ready to burst with admiration.

So many of you physically left Harvard in mid-March, well before you expected. However, you will find that you never leave Harvard. Your classmates and your experiences will always remain yours and you will discover that Harvard is even bigger and better after you graduate.

You all are part of a community that includes everyone who has ever studied or worked at the University, a community that reaches to all parts of the world. It is a community that will welcome you unconditionally in places you wouldn’t expect. Living in southern Australia, after growing up in Arctic Canada, and having lived and/or worked on every continent except the Antarctic, I can say this from personal experience. (I am also sure there is also a Harvard community in Antarctica. I just haven’t met them yet.)

Harvard belongs to all of us.

“Wherever you go, this community will be there for you. We are waiting to meet you and we already have your back.”

Harvard belongs to all of us and we belong to Harvard and to each other. This manifests itself most clearly, when — as alumni — we elect the Overseers of the University and Elected Directors of the Harvard Alumni Association. This is an enormous responsibility, which we hold together. Harvard alumni have created this community for you and now you can join us in paying it forward.

Wherever, however, and whenever, there are so many ways for you to maintain and build your own Harvard community.

It could be by continuing to hang out with your classmates, physically or virtually; or via your School reunions; or through your local club; or through one of the 57 HAA Shared Interest Groups like Harvard Alumni Entrepreneurs, Harvard Alumni for Education,  Harvard-Radcliffe Science Fiction Alumni, or Harvard Alumni for Oceania. Look for us on your School or Harvard Alumni Association website, on our club and shared-interest-group websites; our Facebook pages; on our Instagram and Twitter feeds; and even in the depths of subreddits.

Wherever you go, this community will be there for you. We are waiting to meet you and we already have your back. Come and find us!

So, I know now where I will be on May 28. I won’t be in Tercentenary Theatre; I will be here in Melbourne, Australia, in the middle of the night in my pajamas, watching the livestream from Cambridge together with you and your families and crying tears of joy and pride for Hamish; for Ana, Liz, and Spencer; and for the incomparable Harvard University Class of 2020.