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The History of Harvard's Commencement, Explained

THE REWARD OF MERIT

NO WRITER ATTRIBUTED

Commencement Day brings to Cambridge the most impressive of the University's guests, and the awarding of honor degrees is the most interesting part of the ceremony. It is a clever custom that keeps the names secret until the actual event, and an even more desirable one that makes it necessary for each recipient to be present in person. Sometimes one wishes that the same requirement might be enforced for candidates for regular degrees. Certainly the Senior's experiences of Commencement Week have become an unforgettable memory: he has been welcomed by the graduate body into which he now enters; he learns perhaps for the first time the existence of the strength behind the visible University which gives it permanence and continuity. And the exercises yesterday morning brought to many Seniors their first-realization that they were a part of a great university as well as of a college.

The annual award of honorary degrees, like the English New Year's Rank List, is an opportunity to recognize genuine greatness. This year's list is perhaps typical:--the Canadian Prime Minister for his honorable work of government; Professor Grandgent for his outstanding scholarship and talent; Mr. Morgan for his philanthropy, his loyalty to Harvard, his continual encouragement of what is best in the arts; Bishop Slattery for his services to religion;--these and the others each represent one of the accomplishments toward which the University tries to direct its students. The honorary degree is the discriminating praise of a wise and impartial judge. It must be used not simply as further honor for men who have already won fame, but as the reward of greatness in the world's most honorable activities.

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