The ceremony—which officially began after the sheriff of Middlesex County declared order with a loud yell and several bangs of his staff—featured a handful of student speakers before the traditional conferral of degrees. The deans of each of Harvard’s 12 schools conferred the degrees and University President Drew G. Faust, presiding from a wooden chair at the back of the stage, commended the now-graduates on their accomplishments.
As parents and relatives clutched umbrellas and sheltered from the rain under Harvard-provided ponchos, robe-clad students stood and cheered when administrators named their schools. Medical School students donned stethoscopes, Dental School students waved large blue toothbrushes, and Graduate School of Education students carried various children’s books.
Several deans took the opportunity to address students in a more informal manner. GSAS Dean Xiao-Li Meng reminded students that “this is absolutely your last chance to be a Harvard dropout,” while Medical School Dean George Q. Daley ’82 blew the crowd a kiss. Law School Dean Martha L. Minow stood and shook a large plastic gavel at the audience, grinning all the while.
Three graduating students delivered traditional orations. Jessica R. Glueck ’17 delivered the Latin oration—entitled “Epos Imperfectum,” or “The Unfinished Epic”—in which she compared the path to graduation to Odysseus’s wanderings in Homer’s “Odyssey,” while Divinity School student Walter E. Smelt III praised the school, calling it “a magical kooky place” and “the moral center of campus.”
Auguste J. Roc ’17 took the stage to deliver the undergraduate English address amid chants of “Gussie!” She spoke about her memories of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing and urged students to have courage.
“I have learned that the world can be a scary place… many of us have gone to bed in fear of discrimination, in fear of deportation, in fear of walls and bans and rollbacks,” she said. “We have been afraid, but among us are the courageous—I know it because I’ve seen it.”
Ten individuals, with backgrounds in professions ranging from academia to the aerospace industry, received honorary degrees from the University: former CEO of Lockheed Martin Norman R. Augustine, British actress Judi Dench, Somali human rights activist and physician Hawa Abdi Dhiblawe, feminist literary critic Sandra M. Gilbert, actor James Earl Jones, chancellor of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago Walter E. Massey, Harvard computer science professor Michael O. Rabin, composer John Williams, physician and medical researcher Huda Y. Zoghbi, and Facebook founder Mark E. Zuckerberg.
When he introduced Zuckerberg, University Provost Alan M. Garber ’76 avoided the traditional dropout jokes and instead poked fun at the billionaire’s childhood and teenage years.
“Today, on the 40th anniversary of the opening of Star Wars, we recognize one of the most accomplished people ever to have celebrated a Star Wars-themed bar mitzvah,” Garber said. “It was clear from childhood that the force is strong with this one.”
On a more serious note, Garber added that the University was pleased to welcome back Zuckerberg to “at last” earn his Harvard degree.
Zuckerberg later delivered the Commencement address in the Afternoon Exercises.
—Staff writer Hannah Natanson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @hannah_natanson.—Staff writer Derek G. Xiao can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @derekgxiao.