University President Drew G. Faust conferred 1,556 bachelors of arts and bachelors of science degrees on the Class of 2011 in the morning Commencement exercises Thursday.
“By virtue of authority delegated to me, I confer on you the first degree in arts or in science and admit you into the fellowship of educated men and women,” she said to a cheering crowd of black-robed graduates.
Faust awarded more than 7,200 degrees and certificates to College seniors, students from Harvard’s twelve graduate schools, and students from the Extension School.
The morning exercises opened with three speeches—a Latin salutatory and two English addresses delivered by graduates.
Latin orator Charles C. Bridge ’11 discussed the “Rota Fortunae Harvardiana,” or the “Harvardian Wheel of Fortune,” that dictates the highs and lows of the Harvard experience.
Although their undergraduate careers were determined by this spinning wheel, he urged graduates to “make their own fortunes” as they go forth from Harvard.
Kathleen J. Coulson ‘11 delivered the senior English address, in which she reflected on the traditional three-legged chair in which Faust sits during the ceremony.
For Coulson, the three legs of the chair represent learning across disciplines, the interchange of ideas with classmates, and the creation of community outside of Harvard’s walls.
She said she believes that the fourth missing leg was “left out strategically to remind us that our learning experiences aren’t over and that we must continue to seek out opportunities to expand our support systems in years to come.”
Adam Price, who delivered the graduate English address, urged his fellow graduates to mount a “quiet revolution” by transforming Commencement Day into their own intellectual Independence Day.
“Let’s make today our independence day, and in our liberty, strive to serve the common good,” said Price, a former British member of Parliament who earned a Mid-Career Master’s degree in Public Administration from the Harvard Kennedy School.
In the afternoon exercises, Faust conferred nine honorary degrees and a special posthumous bachelor’s degree before Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf delivered the Commencement address.
In attendance for the day’s events were hundreds of alumni—including Donald F. Brown ’30, 102, the oldest alumnus present, and George Barner ’29, also 102, representing the oldest College class.
Brown, who led the alumni parade into Tercentenary Theatre at the beginning of the afternoon exercises, told Faust, “you’re not President Lowell, but that’s okay,” according to a relative of Brown’s.
Abbott L. Lowell was University President when Brown graduated from the College in 1930.
Brown said he “enjoyed” the ceremony.
“I think there’s probably no other commencement in the country like Harvard’s,” said alumnus Richardson L. Spofford ’41, who was also in attendance. “They just don’t have the impact of all this.”
—Staff writer Rebecca D. Robbins can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.