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The History of Harvard's Commencement, Explained

Indicted Sheriff to Retain Position at Commencement

By Walter L. Goldfrank

Despite a grand jury indictment for negligence in the May 14 escape from the East Cambridge jail, Middlesex County sheriff Howard W. Fitzpatrick will once more assume his traditional role in the University's Commencement exercises June 15.

According to a high Administration official, Fitzpatrick will be acting in his capacity as sheriff, from which the indictment did not remove him. His appearance will in no way involve the University in a political or legal dispute.

At no point before or since last Thursday's action by the grand jury has Fitspatrick been asked to resign. Frequently mentioned in the fall for the Senate seat vacated by President Kennedy, he received an ovation second only to the President's at Kennedy's birthday party Monday night, for which he was co-chairman and a head table guest.

The Commencement exercises will begin when University Marshal J. Hampden Robb '21 turns to Fitzpatrick, saying, "Mr. Sheriff, pray give us order." Fitzpatrick will then rap three times with his sheathed sword and state, "The meeting will be in order." At the close, he will declare the meeting adjourned.

Before the ceremony, Fitzpatrick and Suffolk County Sheriff Frederick R. Sullivan '27 will lead the academic procession into the Tercentenary Theatre, both dressed in seventeenth century costumes, complete with sword and scabbard.

Coincidentally, Sullivan was indicted for negligence in 1955 after the escape of Elmer (Trigger) Burke from Charles Street Jail in Boston, but was acquitted shortly thereafter.

Both sheriffs have taken part in many Commencements, Sullivan off and on since his own graduation in 1927, and Fitzpatrick since assuming office in 1949.

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