Andra and Steve Berkman were moving daughter Lucy into her first-year dorm Wednesday morning when the downpour arrived. All three were soaked as they entered Matthews Hall.
That’s when Harvard’s new president stepped over to assist.
As the Berkmans caught their breath and dried off, Claudine Gay took a moment to get to know the Bay Area family. She chatted with the parents over raising children and then turned to Lucy and asked about her academic plans.
“I’m undecided,” Lucy said shyly, tucking a thatch of wet hair behind her ear.
“Excellent,” Gay shot back. “Let’s hold on to that.”
The weather did nothing to dampen the convivial spirit of move-in day. Greeting the Class of 2027 were the smiling faces of classmates, proctors, resident deans, and administrators. Extra hands and extra umbrellas were in abundant supply. Gay and her husband, Christopher Afendulis, spent the morning welcoming students and lending muscle to families like the Berkmans.
In wrapping up the friendly exchange, Gay asked them: “Should we start bringing things up?”
“Well,” Steve Berkman said with a grin, “I hate to impose.”
Also helping first-years get settled were Rakesh Khurana, the Danoff Dean of Harvard College, and Thomas Dunne, the recently appointed dean of students for the College. “Do you want us to help you?” Dunne asked first-year Samara Baksh of New York City as she waited with the family vehicle outside Canady Hall. “We stand ready to serve.”
Hopi Hoekstra, the newly installed Edgerley Family Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, was seen transporting one especially big box with the help of Alta Mauro, associate dean of students for Inclusion & Belonging. “The thing that gets me,” Hoekstra shared between hauls, “is when you see the Harvard Mom and Harvard Dad shirts.”
Pride was a prevailing theme for family members who paused to reflect on the day. First-year Dontae Christie drove from San Antonio, Texas, with his parents and younger siblings, all five decked out in crisp Harvard T-shirts. “I can’t believe I’m standing on this campus right now,” offered Dontae’s father, Ralin, as he popped the back of their SUV outside Canady Hall. “Not too many people get accepted to Harvard where we come from.”
Some parents, like Jackie Jordan-Ramaraju, a beaming mother from Bettendorf, Iowa, expressed full confidence in their first-years. “He’s ready,” she said of her son, Nikhil Ramaraju, as they stood outside his new home in Wigglesworth Hall. “He’s been ready for a long time.”
Others took the opportunity to marvel over a child’s accomplishment. Inside Weld Hall, the upbeat music of Taylor Swift and Prince rang out as Yoonhyuk Ro walked his daughter, McKayla, to her third-floor room. “This is a dream come true,” said the father from Gainesville, Florida, who honored the occasion by donning a Harvard sweater. “She set her sights on Harvard all the way back in elementary school.”