Collage of major themes from 2020 Gazette coverage, including COVID, protests, and election.

Photo illustration by Judy Blomquist/Harvard Staff

Campus & Community

Top Gazette stories of 2020

6 min read

From COVID to racial reckoning, caffeine to life along the Charles

The Gazette ran its first story on the coronavirus outbreak on Jan. 30, a Q&A with the Chan School’s Marc Lipsitch outlining what experts knew (and didn’t) about the disease at the time. The picture sharpened in the following weeks. And the deadly pandemic dominated our coverage, touching as it did every part of our lives and shining a harsh spotlight on social, political, and economic inequities. It also had a major role in the two other big stories of the year: the national reckoning over race and the high-stakes presidential election. In addition to all that, there were scientific discoveries, achievements in the arts, academic milestones, and a virtual celebration honoring the Class of 2020. But the larger theme running throughout felt familiar: members of the community rising to challenges and striving to make things better, both on campus and in the wider world, with thoughtfulness and creativity. Here’s a look back at an extraordinary year through a sampling of some of our most-read stories.

COVID-19 hits home

‘I thought: This is going to be interesting’

By Colleen Walsh

President Bacow shares his own experience having COVID-19.

Tajrean Rahman, Hannah Thurlby, and Victor Qin.

Stephanie Mitchell and Jon Chase/Harvard Staff Photographers

‘Unsteady,’ ‘lucky,’ and ‘overwhelmed’

By Manisha Aggarwal-Schifellite and Jill Radsken

In March, students reflect on the shift to online classes and unplanned move home.

A day in the life of an ER doc

By Colleen Walsh

Third-year resident Anita Chary describes the personal and professional trials brought by the pandemic.

Emotional toll of pandemic

Feeling more anxious and stressed? You’re not alone

By Alvin Powell

Chan School’s Karestan Koenen, professor of psychiatric epidemiology, discusses rising mental health concerns in the coronavirus era.

Illustration by Deirdre Barrett

Illustration of plague doctor and coronavirus.

What pandemic dreams may come

By Colleen Walsh

Harvard researcher Deirdre Barrett, assistant professor of psychology, says many are having nights full of bugs, masks, and natural disasters.

Staying connected

All twelve House mascots are pictured in costume striking a pose.

Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer

Harbingers of Housing Day

By Juan Siliezar with photos by Stephanie Mitchell

A Who’s Who of the Big 12 — mascots, that is.

Creating community in the virtual classroom

By Manisha Aggarwal-Schifellite

Faculty adapt their courses to bring students together.

Postcards from here

Harvard undergrads tell us about the changes brought by the pandemic back home and how they’re keeping in touch with friends from the College.

Honoring the Class of 2020

The danger of ‘misinformation, disinformation, delusions, and deceit’

By Alvin Powell

Commencement speaker Martin Baron, editor of The Washington Post, sends along the Class of 2020 with the message that facts and the truth matter and are worth fighting for.

Roommates Tatiana Patino and Walburga Khumalo are pictured as first-year students and then as seniors before they move off campus.

Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer

An enduring bond

By Rose Lincoln, with photos by Jon Chase, Rose Lincoln, Stephanie Mitchell, and Kris Snibbe

Students we interviewed in 2017, now seniors, reflect on the friendships forged with their first-year roommates.

Lessons for decision-makers

Time to fix American education with race-for-space resolve

By Liz Mineo

Paul Reville, former secretary of education for Massachusetts, says COVID-19 school closures have turned a spotlight on inequities and other shortcomings.

How COVID turned a spotlight on weak worker rights

By Liz Mineo

Sharon Block, executive director of the Labor and Worklife Program, and Benjamin Sachs, the Kestnbaum Professor of Labor and Industry, point to flaws in the social safety net, an indifferent OSHA, and a system that favors employers over employees.

A brave new world

Rose Lincoln/Harvard Staff Photographer

Computer with a mask.

What will the new post-pandemic normal look like?

By Alvin Powell

Outbreak forced changes big and small, some of which are here to stay.

What might COVID cost the U.S.? Try $16 trillion

By Alvin Powell

David Cutler, the Otto Eckstein Professor of Applied Economics, and Lawrence Summers, the Charles W. Eliot University Professor and former U.S. Treasury secretary, say national testing, contact tracing could make huge difference in saving costs.

Quest for racial justice

The fire this time

By Christina Pazzanese

Lawrence D. Bobo, dean of social science and the W.E.B. Du Bois Professor of the Social Sciences, dissects police killings of Black men and the history and cognitive forces behind racial bigotry and violence, and why he sees signs of hope.

Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer

Orlando Patterson.

Why America can’t escape its racist roots

By Liz Mineo

Orlando Patterson, the John Cowles Professor of Sociology, says there’s been progress, but the nation needs to reject white supremacist ideology, bigotry in policing, and segregation.

A high-stakes election


Kamala Harris, Harris, President-elect Joe Biden.

After a hard election, the real work begins

By Harvard Staff

Scholars from a range of fields look for hints of future prospects in the past and predict what lies ahead in economy, health care, equity, and more.

How might the election change the nation’s place on world stage?

By Christina Pazzanese

Experts and analysts from the Harvard Kennedy School and Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies examine possibilities in foreign policy, intelligence, and defense.

Brighter days for arts forecast in Biden administration

By Manisha Aggarwal-Schifellite and Colleen Walsh

Experts say cultural resources may help heal battered nation after brutal 2020.

Health & Medicine

Feel like kids, spouse, work giving you gray hair? They may be

By Jessica Lau

New findings involving nervous system and stem cells suggest just how stress may trigger the change.

What we know and don’t know about pot

By Alvin Powell

Kevin Hill, associate professor of psychiatry, talks about fearmongering and rosy myths, safe use and addiction.

Rose Lincoln/Harvard Staff Photographer

Cups of coffee

How caffeine changed the world

By Colleen Walsh

Author Michael Pollan discusses his latest work on the world’s most-used psychoactive substance.

Science & Technology

A new threat to bees

By Juan Siliezar

But murder hornets are nothing compared with pesticides, climate change, Harvard experts say.

Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer

Irene Pepperberg with her parrot.

When a bird brain tops Harvard students on a test

By Juan Siliezar with video by Justin Saglio

Experiment tests human vs. parrot memory in a complex shell game.

State of the nation

Do justices really set aside personal beliefs? Nope, legal scholar says

By Liz Mineo

Michael Klarman, an authority on constitutional law and history and Kirkland & Ellis Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, sees trouble ahead in large conservative majority on Supreme Court.

Two-parent homes aren’t the key for all

By Manisha Aggarwal-Schifellite

Why single-parent homes don’t affect Black children as negatively as white kids.

Earth Day turns 50


Denis Hayes.

How Earth Day gave birth to environmental movement

By Christina Pazzanese

Denis Hayes, one of the event’s founders, recalls the first and how its influence spread.

Harvard endowment to go greenhouse gas-neutral by 2050

By Colleen Walsh

University’s efforts to eliminate carbon footprint extend to investment portfolio.


Runner along Charles.

Rose Lincoln/Harvard Staff Photographer

Life along the Charles from sunrise to sunset

By Rose Lincoln with photos by Rose Lincoln and Stephanie Mitchell

Gazette photographers record the life that teems along the waterway.

2020 photo by Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer; 1932 photo by William Rittase

Memorial Hall 1932 vs 2020.

History in a snap … or two

By Anna Burgess with photos by Stephanie Mitchell

Nine Harvard buildings, two photographers, 88 years apart.