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Rev. Peter J. Gomes, like Commencement, never gets rained on.
Hundreds of professors, dignitaries, and academics from across the globe slunk beneath a canopy of black umbrellas at Drew G. Faust’s inauguration Friday afternoon. But the Plummer professor of Christian morals stood dry.
“Not a drop,” Gomes said.
“He doesn’t have an umbrella at all,” Humanities Center Director Homi K. Bhabha quipped, “because God protects him.”
Bhabha shielded himself with a pink-and-red version decorated with flower blossoms, while farther in the procession, Cogan University Professor Stephen J. Greenblatt carried one imprinted with William Shakespeare’s face and signature.
Through the rain, Harvard shined as the two-and-a-half hour ceremony, which dates back three centuries, became most memorable when it departed from script.
At least one other of Harvard’s leading men managed to stay dry during the ceremonies—even without divine assistance. Corporation Fellow Robert E. Rubin ’60, one of the Harvard Corporation members who elected Faust as president, did not appear to be in attendance. The 69-year-old Citigroup chairman has made a habit of missing ceremonies in Cambridge.
Gov. Deval L. Patrick ’78 told his fellow leader to “lean forward,” as Harvard had done with stem cell research, he said. Unfortunately, he called his alma mater’s newest chief, “President Gilpin.”
Former University President Lawrence H. Summers received boisterous applause from the audience when he presented his successor with a set of Harvard seals.
Found after Faust’s address milling in front of Widener Library shaking hands, a smiling Summers deflected attention away from his loud reception.
“It was just great to be a part of Drew’s ceremony,” he said. “I think it’s a great day for the University.”
Some participants did not enjoy themselves as much.
Attempting to bridge the gap between the University and the world, Faust told the audience, “We share the same changing climate.”
One student in a thin sweater agreed. “Yeah,” he said, turning to a seat mate, “It’s so fucking cold!”
Representatives of 220 academic institutions were among the thousands who converged on campus for Friday’s festivities. They kept warm underneath an endless variety of headwear.
“I think the academic garb is a little bit like adult Halloween,” said Dillon Professor of Government Graham T. Allison Jr. ’62, who wore a hood made of rabbit fur.
Thomas E. Everhart ’53, the former president of California Institute of Technology, wore a cap purchased half a century ago from a Cambridge hat-maker.
“I’m not sure if it’s still around,” he said.
There were other University heads present to remind those gathered at this old American school of Harvard’s rather juvenile state.
“Harvard feels much freer to invent. There’s a sense of spontaneity,” said Lord Richard T. Wilson, the master of Emmanuel College in Cambridge. That school, John Harvard’s student home, was founded in 1584. His colleagues from Oxford (founded in the 11th century) and Cambridge (founded in the 13th century) were among the crowd.
Accompanied by the tunes of bagpipes, the gray weather that dominated the afternoon seemed more fitting for the instrument’s wet home than the crisp Cambridge October.
Faust’s appointment has made ripples as far away as the Yangtze River Delta.
“In China, it’s not so many women presidents at this moment,” said Wei Yang, the president of Zhejiang University in Hangzhou, who came for the ceremony.
“The ladies—presidents—they have better communication, and so they can coordinate different parts of the university with much more finesse,” Yang said.
Two American Civilization graduate students mixed their love for two of Boston’s most important institutions: Harvard and the Red Sox. On the first day of the American League Championship Series, the graduates carried a sign with photos of Harvard’s new president and the Sox’s beleaguered right-fielder J.D. Drew.
With T-shirts marked “Drew 28” (Faust is Harvard’s 28th president) they lifted their sign.
It read: “Drew Can Do It!”
—Lois E. Beckett, Christian B. Flow, Claire M. Guehenno, Laurence H. M. Holland, Zachary M. Seward, and Nicholas K. Tabor contributed to the reporting of this story.
—Staff writer Samuel P. Jacobs can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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