At the Head of the Class

Shaka J.D. Bahadu ’04 is the host with the most—most guests, that is.

As First Class Marshall, Bahadu is responsible for the organization, libation and entertainment of roughly 1,600 seniors throughout the spring semester and as they revel in post-exam, pre-Commencement limbo.

That includes the preparation of senior bar sessions all spring, the planning of Senior Week, the securing of a Class Day speaker and just about everything in between.

“Basically I’m the first one there and the last one to leave [each event],” Bahadu says, adding that the responsibilities of his position have been time consuming. “It really takes over. I had to drop a lot of things that I care about here in order to do this well.”

In particular, he says, his academics took something of a hit this semester as he struggled to sort through the 200 e-mails flooding his inbox each day.


“I could have done really, really well, but instead I did aight,” he acknowledges, smiling.

Bahadu, who hails from Detroit, Mich., is no stranger to balancing work and extracurriculars, having run the Dunster Grille, played in countless intramurals and served as Dunster House Committee (HoCo) co-chair in his four years at Harvard.  

It is in this last role that he showcased his party planning abilities, throwing monthly happy hours and the annual House goat roast.

According to Bahadu’s friends, not only did he plan the parties, but he also partook in them, earning a reputation as one of the best known people on campus.

“Every single formal, every single event, everyone knows Shaka,” says Dunster House resident John L. Peterson ’04, who counts Bahadu’s dancing and singing abilities among his friend’s charming traits. “People are all always saying hi to him.”

Bahadu’s chief event as HoCo co-chair was this year’s banner Spring Formal, which he says sported nearly double the number of guests in previous years, prompting guests at Eliot House’s famed Fete to crash their neighboring House’s party. In order to pique interest in the occasion, Bahadu had 100 handles of liquor delivered and wheeled through the courtyard during the goat roast, which took place the week before the formal.

“We had the best HoCo with him last year,” says Peterson. “We had the best formal ever with the highest attendance ever…I can’t imagine any other HoCo being able to match it.”

Yet for all his success at Harvard, Bahadu nearly turned his nose at the Yard in favor of the sunny shores of California after high school.

“Going into my senior year in high school I wanted to go to Stanford more than anything in the world,” he says, adding that he applied to Harvard only on the advice of his guidance counselor.

If not for the fact that Harvard accepted the Common Application, Bahadu says, “I probably wouldn’t have applied.”