Campus & Community

Reflecting on 2019-20

Charles River.

Rose Lincoln/Harvard file photo

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Notable moments throughout Harvard’s eventful academic year

This year was one like none other. It ushered in anniversaries across the University, new innovations in science, technology, and health, and projects in the arts. The community also faced an unprecedented challenge as the COVID-19 pandemic put life as we know it on hold.

In the true spirit of Harvard, students, faculty, and staff were still able to reach out from around the world to support their communities, whether by producing personal protective equipment for health care workers, or by helping to feed vulnerable populations.

Whether through shared triumph or hardship, the Class of 2020 has continued to rise to the challenge. Here are some of the highlights from the 2019-2020 academic year.

June 2019

The College announced a new Academic Resource Center, originally slated to open in August. It plans to offer a range of student support services, including workshops, consultations, and coaching.

By collaborating with other universities and sharing collections, Harvard Library made 90 million books available to its users.

Philanthropist Hansjörg Wyss, M.B.A. ’65, contributed $131 million more to the institute that bears his name, with the goal of solving some of the world’s most complex challenges in health care and the environment.

The Faculty of Arts and Sciences announced new ethnicity, indigeneity, and migration positions. These positions will cross divisions with a focus on Latinx, Asian American, and Muslim fields.

Pride and Prejudice play.

The cast of “Pride and Prejudice” rehearse in the Arboretum.

Rose Lincoln/Harvard file photo

The Arnold Arboretum hosted Actors’ Shakespeare Project performance of Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice” in the Leventritt Garden, with more than 1,500 in attendance.

Harvard Art Museums received a $1 million gift from George Ho ’90, Henry Ho ’95, and Rosalind “Sasa” Wang, to support the work of student guides, ambassadors now known as Ho Family Student Guides.

To achieve untethered flight, the latest iteration of the Robobee underwent several important changes, including the addition of a second pair of wings.

Video courtesy of the Harvard Microrobotics Lab/Harvard SEAS

Gif of robobee.

In the Harvard Microrobotics Lab, decades of research culminated in a moment of stress as the tiny, groundbreaking RoboBee made its first solo flight.

July 2019

Sarah M. Whiting joined the Graduate School of Design as its first female dean.

Rain Gardens.

Christiana Akins from the Office for Sustainability worked with students to create rain gardens at Mather and Leverett Houses. The gardens help to alleviate some of the water puddling after rainstorms.

Rose Lincoln/Harvard file photo

Students brought rain gardens to campus as a sustainable and aesthetic way to improve water quality and prevent walkway flooding.

Caroline Coolidge.
Caroline Coolidge displays the figurine she unearthed at the archaeology site in Peru.

A Harvard Summer School archaeological dig at one of Peru’s most important sites led to a rare find for one student.

Wyss Institute researchers developed an adhesive gel, inspired by slug secretion, which acts as a responsive wound dressing.

Magnetic scans performed on sculptures from Monte Alto, Guatemala, suggest that  Mesoamericans both understood magnetism and had uses for it.

August 2019

Harvard recommitted $20 million to create local affordable housing.

A tree in Harvard Forest outfitted with sensors, cameras, and other digital equipment sent out on-the-ground coverage on Twitter.

Child at Ed Portal.

At the Harvard Ed Portal in Allston, Luke Scanlon dives into a creative exercise during the American Repertory Theater (A.R.T.) workshop for first and second graders.

Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard file photo

Harvard Ed Portal program offered fun, skill-building activities for local students in its fourth year of Harvard’s Summer Explorations.

Stephanie Paulsell is named interim Pusey Minister at the Memorial Church.

The Class of 2023 made themselves at home during Moving Day.

Harvard College launched Service Starts with Summer Program for incoming first-years.

The Wyss Institute developed ultra-soft underwater grippers that use fettuccini-like fingers to catch and release jellyfish for research, without harm.

The “Donkey Show” ended after a decade-long run at the A.R.T.

More than 1,500 first-years fanned out around Greater Boston for a day of volunteering at schools and nonprofits.

September 2019

Dean Tomiko Brown-Nagin launched Radcliffe Engaged, a new strategic plan with an explicit focus on real-world impact, application, and collaboration.

The Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies celebrated 50 years of building a community of thousands of faculty, scholars, and students who advance the study of Europe in all corners of the globe.

William Julius Wison with Larry Bacow.

“You have held a mirror up to our society. You have asked the toughest questions. You have challenged us as a nation, as a society, as a community to be better,” said Harvard President Larry Bacow, (right) in praising William Julius Wilson (left).

Kris Snibbe/Harvard file photo

William Julius Wilson, the Lewis P. and Linda L. Geyser University Professor Emeritus at the Knafel Center, who influenced the national conversation on race and class in America over the past half century, was celebrated with a three-day symposium.

The Immigration Initiative at Harvard (IIH) — a new University-wide effort launched with support from the Graduate School of Education — brought together Harvard students, researchers, and policy leaders to advance innovative research about immigration.

A crowd of college, high school, and elementary school students were joined by Harvard faculty for a daylong global rally in Harvard’s Science Center Plaza over the inadequate response by world leaders to the quickly worsening climate crisis.

Dean of Harvard’s Division of Continuing Education Huntington D. Lambert, who nearly doubled the School’s programs since his arrival in 2013, announced his retirement.

ArtLab building.

Rose Lincoln/Harvard file photo

Harvard’s Allston ArtLab opened up for creative research.

October 2019

A federal judge ruled in favor of Harvard in an ongoing lawsuit, upholding its practice of including race as one of many factors considered in reviewing applications to the College.

Bridget Terry Long with Grover.

Harvard Graduate School of Education Dean Bridget Terry Long laughs with Grover.

Rose Lincoln/Harvard file photo

Muppets took over Sanders Theatre to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Graduate School of Education’s collaboration with “Sesame Street.”

Newly minted Nobel laureate William G. Kaelin of Harvard Medical School reflected on the discoveries and innovations that led to the coveted prize.

Professor of Developing Societies in the Department of Economics Michael Kremer was part of a trio that won the Nobel prize in economics for their work determining the effectiveness of world poverty programs.

Harvard Band celebrated its centennial.

Harvard University received a $20 million gift from philanthropists Lisa Yang and Hock Tan, an alumnus of Harvard Business School, to establish the Hock E. Tan and K. Lisa Yang Center for Autism Research at Harvard Medical School. The latest gift brings the total autism-related research funding provided by Yang and Tan to nearly $70 million.

Athletics director Bob Scalise announced his retirement after more four decades at Harvard in various roles.

Queen Latifah and Robert F. Smith

Queen Latifah (right) and Robert F. Smith applaud their fellow honorees.

Rose Lincoln/Harvard file photo

Queen Latifah was among those honored at this year’s W.E.B. Du Bois Medal awards ceremony in Sanders Theatre.

November 2019

Empty newsstand.

Rose Lincoln/Harvard file photo

Out of Town News, the 64-year-old landmark of Harvard Square, sold its last edition to make way for a new visitor information booth.

A first-of-its-kind First Generation Harvard Alumni Red Book, produced by the Harvard Alumni Association (HAA), shared the stories of Harvard alumni across class years and Schools who were the first in their families to attend college.

Harvard School of Dental Medicine joined other Boston-area dental schools to provide more than 50 endodontic treatments on “Teeth Worth Saving Day.”

The Kennedy School created a national crisis simulation to explore cryptocurrency and the dangers of large sums being secretly sent to hostile nations.

An innovative new private-public partnership led by Harvard and MIT aimed to accelerate research in the promising science of cell and gene therapy.

Black and white photo of Angela Davis.

Photo of Angela Davis’ class at Claremont College, 1975.

Courtesy of Schlesinger Library

A Radcliffe exhibit explored the complicated life of activist and scholar Angela Davis.

December 2019

David H. Rosmarin developed a program that combines spirituality with counseling to treat patients at McClean Hospital.

A mockup of what the new Allston campus will look like (more buildings and trees)

Conceptual rendering of a portion of the University’s Enterprise Research Campus.

Courtesy of Tishman Speyer

Tishman Speyer slated to develop first phase of Enterprise Research Campus in Allston. The firm’s proposal focuses on public realm, sustainability, diversity, and affordable housing.

Researchers in an ultracold environment got a first look at exactly what happens during a chemical reaction.

Robin Hopkins Arnold Arboretum Faculty Fellow received two National Science Foundation grants in excess of $1 million to study how plants choose mates.

January 2020

Jack Strominger looked back on the trailblazing achievements his biochemistry lab made in its 50-year history, and his plans as an emeritus professor.

Image from the WorldWide Telescope, courtesy of Alyssa Goodman

Telescope render.

Harvard astronomers discovered a giant gaseous structure made up of interconnected stellar nurseries, which transforms a 150-year-old theory.

Harvard Law School announced the launch of the LGBTQ+ Advocacy Clinic, which will engage in a range of strategies for advancing LGBTQ+ rights.

Former Harvard tight end and current San Francisco 49er reflected on the lessons he took from the Ivy Leagues to the big leagues.

Elizabeth banks surrounded by colorful characters

Prior to her roast, Elizabeth Banks joined the colorful crowd in front of Farkas Hall.

Photo by Aaron Ye

Elizabeth Banks was roasted and toasted during Hasty Pudding’s Woman of the Year ceremony.

February 2020

Recent alumi Joshuah Campbell and Gabe Fox-Peck were Oscar nominated for best song in “Harriet.”

Ben Platt, Hasty Pudding’s Man of the Year, received a musical tour of Farkas Hall and the coveted Pudding Pot.

Researchers with coffin.

Dennis Piechota (from left), Adam Middleton, and Joe Greene work on the coffin of Ankh-Khonsu with a team at the Semitic Museum.

Kris Snibbe/Harvard file photo

A project to make complete visual digital records of three 3,000-year-old coffins turned up a painting of a deity.

Me Too founder Tarana Burke received the Harvard Kennedy School’s Center for Public Leadership Gleitsman Award.

Harvard University scientists announced a collaboration with Chinese colleagues on development of novel coronavirus therapies and improved diagnostics.

African and African American Studies celebrated 50 years with a symposium.

Harvard Art Museums opened “Painting Edo: Japanese Art from the Feinberg Collection,” drawn from one of the largest and most significant gifts of art ever promised to the University.

March 2020

Lilit Garibyan displays before and after photos of laser treatment on a patient with port-wine stain.

Jon Chase/Harvard file photo

Dr. Lilit Garibyan showing the before and after of surgery on her laptop

Massachusetts General Hospital’s Wellman Center physicians provided medical expertise and laser surgery to children in Armenia with disfiguring skin conditions.

Harvard University announced the suspension in-person classes and shift to online learning in an effort to combat the spread of coronavirus.

March 13 marked the first confirmed case of an individual in the Harvard community testing positive for COVID-19.

President Larry Bacow announced that the University’s 369th Commencement ceremony will be postponed and a virtual University-wide graduation ceremony will replace it on May 28.

A zoom call with a bunch of medical students

Courtesy of Jordan Persso

For the first time, Harvard Medical School’s Match Day celebration went virtual, informing graduating students of their clinical training, internship, or residency programs via emails and Zoom calls.

Teams of Harvard scientists from a variety of Schools joined the frantic race to find a treatment for the coronavirus as the global pandemic intensifies.

April 2020

The Harvard community adapted quickly, and rallied around solutions to the COVID-19 crisis including opening hotels to first responders, donating masks and equipment, and supporting the local school systems.

Harvard Law School’s Food Law and Policy Clinic worked furiously to ensure that the most vulnerable are fed during the coronavirus pandemic.

Larry and Adele Fleet Bacow shared their experience contracting and recovering from COVID-19.

Harvard and MIT donated $250,000 each to help the city of Cambridge establish a temporary emergency shelter for homeless residents.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the Graduate School of Design began fabrication of personal protective equipment (PPE) and patient isolation hoods (PIH) for area hospitals.

The Semitic Museum changed its name to the Harvard Museum of the Ancient Near East to reflect the collections and research conducted there.

The University set a goal to have the endowment reflect “net-zero” greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, the first net-zero pledge among U.S. endowments. Additionally, a new Presidential Committee on Sustainability was created to advise University leadership on sustainability vision, goals, strategy, and partnerships.

will Giannobile outside his office

Alumnus William Giannobile was announced as the new dean for the School of Dental Medicine.

Harvard launched an emergency grant program for Allston-Brighton in response to COVID-19-related community needs.

The Harvard Horizons Symposium showcased eight scholars studying topics from implicit bias to religion and Hollywood.

Harvard Graduate School of Education celebrates 100 years of indelible impact on the field of education.

May 2020

Harvard researchers collaborated on the How We Feel app, which uses crowdsourced data to help fill information gaps created by the COVID-19 testing shortage.

the "How we Feel" app on someone's phone
A map of the us, with changing colors based on coronavirus outbreaks

Examples from the How We Feel app and the Opportunity Insights Economic Tracker.

Photo by Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard file photo

A Harvard-developed tool allows policymakers to base their economic decisions on fresh information.

The Harvard-led Massachusetts Consortium on Pathogen Readiness (MassCPR) awarded $16.5 million to 62 research projects that all have the potential to impact patients within the next 12 months.

Harvard planned for a virtual University-wide graduation ceremony honoring the Harvard Class of 2020.