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The History of Harvard's Commencement, Explained

Walter Cronkite to Speak at Class Day

Commencement Speaker Not Disclosed

By Marc L. Baum

Walter Cronkite yesterday told the Senior Class Committee he would speak at Class Day this June.

"Is there a more prestigious audience?" Cronkite, who rarely accepts speaking engagements, said yesterday. He added that he has not decided on the topic of his address.

The committee first approached Cronkite six weeks ago, but at that time he said he could not commit himself, Elizabeth H. Owens '80, Radcliffe Class Marshal, said yesterday.

Everyone's Dad

"I'm delighted, in part because he is such a father figure for America, and in part because he is retiring," Owens said. "He will be able to say something inspirational," she added.

David A. Aloian '49, executive director of Associated Harvard Alumni, said yesterday, "A Class Day speech will allow him to express his private and personal views in a way which broadcasting would not."

Six weeks ago when Cronkite refused to commit himself, the committee approached Barbara Tuchman, historian and author, Johnny Carson and Burt Reynolds, members of the committee said. All three declined.

Jet-Set Travel

The committee spoke to Cronkite again two weeks ago and, although he will be in California covering the primary June 3, Cronkite agreed to come if the committee could arrange a flight late that night.

Cronkite said he would have liked to attend Harvard in the past as either an undergraduate, a graduate, a speaker or a Nieman fellow.

Fast Forward

Cronkite, 64, was born in St. Joseph, Mo., in 1916. Though he never received an undergraduate degree, he has studied at the University of Texas, Rollins College, Bucknell University, Syracuse University, and Ohio State. He earned an L.L.D. at Rollins and a L.H.D. at Ohio State. He has been with CBS since 1950.

Last year, Theodore H. White '38, historian and author, spoke on Class Day. Two years ago, seniors heard comedian Rodney Dangerfield.

The University has not yet announced who the commencement speaker will be though sources say the choice has been made.

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