Reviving an Old Tradition, the Class of 2012 Will Receive Class Color

Graduating seniors in the Class of 2012 will receive an official class color on Class Day during a ceremony hosted by the Harvard Alumni Association, restoring a long-held Harvard tradition that has not been practiced since 1963.

According to this tradition, Harvard’s rising sophomore class will inherit the class color of the past spring’s graduating seniors—in this case, blue—in the fall, which organizers say will foster class unity and transition.

“Class unity that is fostered in freshman year is lost when students move into their houses at the beginning of sophomore year,” said Justin Lanning ’12, a co-chair of the HAA’s Building Community Committee, which decided to reinstate the tradition.

“We don’t think that House pride and class unity are mutually exclusive, and we hope that students will be able to carry both sources of pride throughout their time at Harvard,” he said.

In order to reinstate the cycle of inheriting class colors in full, the Harvard classes of 2013 and 2014 will receive their respective colors of orange and green during Class Day of their senior year. Alumni from the 1950s and 1960s have been invited to return to take part in these Class Day ceremonies.

This fall, students from the Class of 2012 will be invited to return to campus and pass on their class color to the Class of 2015 during a sophomore-wide barbecue event—a ceremony that the HAA hopes will continue in the future.

Though the sophomore barbecue was originally planned as a separate event, HAA members said that the barbecue seemed like an appropriate platform to launch the class color tradition.

“These are two events that are meaningful on their own,” said Catherine Katz ’13, Undergraduate Events Subcommittee co-chair of the HAA’s Building Community Committee. “But by combining them, we create a new tradition that will stand out and be even more significant for future classes.”

The Class of 2015 will inherit the color blue from the Class of 2012, the color that both classes would have received, if the original cycle not been interrupted in 1963. To celebrate the occasion, the UC is hosting a contest to design a commemorative t-shirt. Sophomores will be receiving blue t-shirts with the winning design at the barbecue in the fall.

“We wanted to do something that would really make the color become a part of the class,” said Pratyusha Yalamanchi ’13, UC Vice President and member of the HAA Building Community Committee. “Your class color is something that you’ll carry with you throughout your Harvard career as well as when you become alumni.”

This tradition of handing down class colors began when the Class of 1885 received the color green. The three original colors—green, orange, and blue—represent Dartmouth, Princeton, and Yale, Harvard’s fiercest athletic and academic rivals of the time.

According to Lanning, Harvard students would originally acquire their colors by stealing the school flags of these rival colleges. He noted that this story remains largely unknown to current students.

“Harvard has an incredible number of rich traditions—some that continue today and some that have faded over time,” Lanning said. “By bringing back class colors, we want to connect students to a long and rich Harvard history.”

—Staff writer Michelle Denise L. Ferreol can be reached at mferreol@college.harvard.edu.

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