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The History of Harvard's Commencement, Explained

Harvard Explained

By Alexandra W. Soderberg, Contributing Writer

Q. What’s the deal with the Harvard clubs in other cities?

A. It all began one night in 1865 on Astor Place in New York City, where four Harvard alums congregated for the first meeting of the Harvard Club of New York City. Since that fateful night, Harvard Clubs throughout the country and around the world have served Harvard’s Alumni Association, preserving a mutually beneficial relationship between the University and its graduates.

In 1894, the three-story Neo-Georgian clubhouse was built at 27 West 44th street, and a 1905 addition included the magnificent Harvard Hall, hailed by many as the finest clubroom in all the world.

Ryan D. Hughes ’06 concurs, having stumbled upon the clubhouse in New York City while walking home from work last summer. He discovered that students can obtain summer memberships for $150, and took advantage of the club as a base in the city during his summer internship commute. He raves about the “incredible competition-level squash courts,” the exercise machines equipped with flat screen televisions, and the “beautiful common rooms.”

The Harvard Club of Boston was born in 1908, promptly establishing a still-extant educational scholarship program—last year, the club granted more than $260,000 to Harvard students. The main Clubhouse at 374 Commonwealth Avenue hosts events such as concerts, art exhibits, and dinners in honor of Harvard athletic teams. Membership is open to Harvard graduates and faculty.

The University’s notoriously discerning admissions office effectively grants right of entry to post-graduate Harvard Clubs. Few social establishments can boast of an application for membership that requires a personal essay and a laundry list of scholastic accolades—all by the age of 18.

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