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The History of Harvard's Commencement, Explained
Commencement at Harvard traditionally begins with the cry. "Sheriff, pray give us order"-but this year there may be no order.
John J. Buckley. newly-appointed Sheriff of Middlesex County, has announced that he will not attend the commencement ceremonies. Thursday because of his objection to the traditional dress he would be required to wear.
The controversy over Buckley's decision recalls occasions in the 30's when two Governors of Massachusetts twitted Harvard over its traditional dress at Commencement. Gov. Paul Dever out raged tradition-minded alumni by appearing in a regular tuxedo and straw hat.
On another occasion Gov. James Michael Curley appeared in silk stockings, knee britches, a powdered wig, and a three-cornered hat with flowing plume.
When University marshals obo?ted to his costume, the story goes, Curley whipped out a copy of the Statutes of the Massachusetts Bay Colony which prescribed proper dress for the occasion and claimed that he was the only person at the ceremony properly dressed.
Buckley's predecessor, Howard E. Fitzpatrick, who died last April, followed the lead of the Sheriffs preceding him by appearing at all Harvard Commencements attired in a top hat, morning coat, and striped pants with a sword and scabbard at the belt.
The Sheriff's only duty at Commencement is to respond to the Marshal's call by rapping his sword three times on theplatform and crying, "Let the meeting be in order."
But although the statutes of the Commonwealth require him to be present, Buckley will miss the ceremony rather than don the fancy dress.
"I think it's inappropriate for me as an individual to appear in this costume-and I think it's inappropriate for the 1970's," he said. He called the University's refusal to allow him to fulfill the office dressed in a dark suit "a little bit arrogant."
University Marshal William G. Anderson '39, said yesterday, "The function of the Sheriff is an official function, and he should wear the uniform appropriate." Anderson said that Suffolk County Sheriff Thomas Eisenstadt would fulfill the role, unless Buckley changed his mind.
"I would be happy to have Mr. Buckley attend the ceremony and march in the procession-but if he wants to lead the procession he must be dressed appropriately." Anderson said.
Like other politicians who have taken on the Harvard Commencement ceremony. Buckley attracted brickbats and praise yesterday, Former Cambridge Mayor Walter J. Sullivan-who has announced his candidacy for Sheriff-said. "I will give Sheriff Buckley $20 to rent the morning coat, striped pants, and tall silk hat."
But Alfred E. Vellucci, the current Mayor, said he approved of the decision.
"Now I see they're going to have Tom Eisenstadt march with the sword," he added. "Where is he going to get a sword unless he borrows one from the Don Juan Drum and Bugle Corps?"
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