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Did Derek Really Sign Your Diploma?

By Gilbert Fuchsberg

HOW MUCH TIME would you guess President Bok spent signing the more than 4500 diplomas that the University will award today?

"There are certain aspects of Harvard that must remain a secret even to The Crimson," says the greying top dog of Massachusetts Hall, a 14-year veteran of the post. "How I get those diplomas signed, how I manage in the midst of my busy life to give my attention to them, is something that will go with me to my grave."

Well, it didn't take too much digging to find out that Derek doesn't really sign all those degrees himself. In fact, not a single undergraduate or graduate diploma sports an authentic Derek Curtis Bok autograph.

Instead, they're just printed on.

"Otherwise no one would get their diploma on Commencement day," says Elizabeth Rew, a staff assistant in the Faculty's Office of the Registrar. "But the signatures look very real--not like they're just rubber-stamped."

For many graduates, recent final exams and last-minute grade changes kept the status of honors and other diploma citations in flux until as late as this week. So even if Bok wanted to sign them all, or could clear his schedule for a couple of weeks to do so, there's no way he possibly could finish in time, Rew explains.

O.K., so Bok's signature is bogus. That still leaves for the personal diploma touch all the deans of the various faculties, the associate deans, the House Masters, and--for female graduates of the College--Radcliffe President Matina Horner Right?

If it weren't for modern printing technology, all those people would join Bok in having tired wrists, officials say. All, that is, except for two.

One is Dental School Dean Paul Goldhaber whose graduating class of fewer than 50 students is the smallest at the University. Even if he wanted to the small number of Dental School diplomas makes it impractical to have them printed specially with his signature. So he signs them himself.

So does Eliot House Master Alan E. Heimert '49 the only House Master or dean to sign personally diplomas for graduates of the College. Rew says the seniors of Eliot House get this special treatment because of Heimert's desire to give "the personal touch" for the students he's come to know over the years.

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