Lawrence H. Summers was selected in March, took office in July, but has yet to be officially installed as Harvard’s 27th University president. The University recently announced details of the October inauguration ceremony that will herald Summers’ formal induction into office.
While the inauguration is merely a formality, it will be the celebratory kickoff to Summers’ presidential tenure. Summers’ selection was announced with a degree of pomp, but he arrived in July to little fanfare—a staff party in Mass. Hall.
Scheduled for Oct. 11-12, the inauguration is to include student and musical performances, symposia, a full dress academic procession and the actual installation ceremony.
Nominations are currently being accepted for which student groups are to perform to begin the event on Thursday night. The show, entitled “Segue,” will bring together performers from across the College and the graduate schools.
Friday’s events will begin with symposia—on undergraduate education, science, and development, among other topics—led by Harvard faculty and other leaders in the given fields.
Graduate School of Education professor Richard J. Light, whose book “Making the Most of College: Students Speak Their Minds” is gaining attention nationwide, will chair the panel on undergraduate education. Summers cites Light’s book when discussing some of the challenges the College faces.
Both the symposia and Segue will be invitation-only events, but audiences will include selected students, faculty, alumni and other guests. Extra seats will also likely be sold or lotteried to interested students.
Event coordinator Jacqueline A. O’Neill said that the largest possible performance spaces were chosen so that events would be as inclusive as possible.
The keynote event, the ceremony bestowing the presidency upon Summers, will follow on Friday afternoon in Tercentenary Theatre.
The entire Harvard community will be invited to the installation ceremony—students will receive formal invitations in the mail this fall. The ceremony, O’Neill said, will include a student speaker, as well as addresses by members of Harvard’s governing boards, a representative from the world of higher education. But the focus will be on the new president, who address the assembled crowds.
Then, in a part of the ceremony governed by Harvard tradition, artifacts will be passed, Latin read, and Summers installed.
Music will be provided by a combined choir drawn from across the University, a rare collaboration that will mean over 200 student voices.
Harvard’s presidential inaugurations have varied in size and intent. The inaugural events of former University President James B. Conant ‘14 and the university’s tercentennial were for all intents and purposes one and the same. Derek C. Bok’s installation was a modest affair. His successor and Summers’ predecessor, Neil L. Rudenstine, had one of the first grand inaugural galas in memory as he embarked on the first University-wide Capital Campaign.
Summers’ ceremony is likely to end up falling somewhere in the middle.
—Staff writer David H. Gellis can be reached at email@example.com.