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The History of Harvard's Commencement, Explained

Dean Acheson Expected Here at Graduation


Secretary of State Dean Acheson will receive an honorary degree at Commencement and will speak at Alumni Exercises on the afternoon of June 22, it was reported yesterday.

The disclosure came from a New York Times list of Acheson's speaking schedule for June. The printed itinerary included a speech at the "Harvard University Commencement."

Actually, the only speeches at the Commencement exercises themselves are the student parts. Presumably the Times report referred to the Alumni Exercises, which take place on the afternoon of Commencement Day. Three of the morning's honorary degree winners always speak at the afternoon session.

Acheson's Harvard speech is described by the Times as part of an effort "both to tell the people of the conditions of the world that justify the term 'cold war,' and to advise them of the policies the United States Government has devised to meet these conditions."

The list of honorary degree winners is traditionally kept secret by the University right up to the start of Commencement ceremonies. And the announcement as to which honorary degree winners will speak at the afternoon exercises is also held in confidence until these ceremonies are under way.

Names of honorary degree winners are kept secret because a designee does not get his degree if he does not show up at the Commencement ceremony. University officials feel that possible embarrassment is avoided in this way.

The only exception to this ruling came in the case of General Douglas MacArthur, whose military duties kept him from picking up an honorary degree which was to have been conferred on him in June, 1946. By special Corporation vote, MacArthur may get his degree any time he chooses to attend a Harvard Commencement.

Acheson, a graduate of Yale College, got his LL.B. degree from Harvard Law School in 1918.

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