My brother graduated last week from Harvard University undergrad. It was a sentimental moment for many of his peers, who would be saying goodbye to Cambridge, Massachusetts. However, my brother still has 8 more years to go in the Harvard M.D.-Ph.D program so he was comically ho-hum by the whole event.
I don’t know if graduations are that interesting honestly, but if you’ve never been to Harvard University, think of this as a quick tour.
The ceremony officially started at about 8:45 A.M., but we got to the school around 6 A.M. to find a good spot. Hundreds of people were already there. The graduation was held in a tree-filled space between the Tercentenary Theatre and Widener Library, the main library of the university. All the students sat in the front half of the space close to the platform while family and visitors sat behind them.
Unfortunately, this meant that everybody was sitting on the same level, which made it nearly impossible to see what was going on. The set-up for my college graduation two years ago was a lot better, held in a sports stadium with spectators sitting in the bleachers looking down on the students. Harvard also has sports stadiums that would be great venues to hold graduation ceremonies. My only explanation for why graduation continues to be held amongst the trees is tradition, which is probably the same reason why Harvard dorms are so old and awful.
Harajuku city camo shark hoody by A Bathing Ape. Shark attack! Harvard never knew what hit them.
Lots of dapper men and women were in attendance. This guy caught a lot of eyeballs as he walked around before the ceremony started. I thought he looked a lot like Brad Pitt but nobody seems to agree with me.
Veritas (truth) is the university motto, and each school within the university has a different seal. The lion on the left represents the College of Medicine, but I don’t know about the right one.
At long last, the procession started and the students began marching into the yard. Similar to the Hogwarts school system of the Harry Potter universe, the undergraduates are split into a dozen houses before freshmen year. The students live in the same building for the next four years with other members of their house. My brother belongs to Lowell House — notable alumni of Lowell include Matt Damon, Natalie Portman, and Michael Crichton.
Asian girls tend to flock together. The people in top hats were volunteers who helped answer questions and steer people to their seats.
The graduation ceremony itself was pretty standard and somewhat boring. Speakers gave the typical words of advice and encouragement that the graduates can make a difference in the world. This being Harvard, the words seemed to ring a little truer. I more than anyone love to poke fun of elitists who think they’re hotshots just because they went to certain schools, and my brother would be the first to tell you that there’s definitely students at Harvard who aren’t really qualified to be there. But as a whole, the student body of Harvard is undeniably one of the best, and if anybody could change the world, they would be my first picks.
Following the big graduation ceremony, everybody returned to their respective houses for a luncheon and a smaller ceremony where graduates could be individually honored and receive their diploma.
Striding forward on the stage. Notice all the greenery — this is the Ivy League after all.
The afternoon ceremony was headlined by a speech from Steven Chu, the U.S. Secretary of Energy. Harvard invites a “fun” speaker every year as well, including Conan O’Brien and Sacha “Borat” Cohen in the past. This year was Matt Lauer. Needless to say, we didn’t go listen to him.
The John Harvard statue is likely the most tourist appealing spot on campus. Rubbing his left shoe is said to bring good luck. With the volume of tourists that visit Harvard, his shoe has been polished to a gleaming golden color from all the people rubbing it. The statue was also famously made the butt of a Halo 3 joke by MIT students a few years ago.
This building houses the freshmen dining hall, which supposedly was the inspiration for the Hogwarts dining hall in the Harry Potter movies. This is normally closed to the public as well, but luckily security was lax and we were able to get in for photos.
Helping my brother move out of his dorm. Students have to stay in the same building complex for all four years, but with each advancing year, they move to better rooms. As a senior, my brother got two small rooms of this size, which were in passable condition to my surprise. His room I saw two years ago was in very poor shape.
Standing in front of his department: Chemistry and Chemical Biology. Congrats to the Class of 2009!