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‘How Can I Not Want to be Here?’ Students Battle Rain and Friday Classes to Attend Gay’s Historic Inauguration

Beneath a sea of umbrellas, students watch as Harvard President Claudine Gay is formally inaugurated.
Beneath a sea of umbrellas, students watch as Harvard President Claudine Gay is formally inaugurated. By Frank S. Zhou
By Nia L. Orakwue, Crimson Staff Writer

Students said Friday’s heavy rain did little to dampen the fanfare of University President Claudine Gay’s historic inauguration, which they described as a fitting celebration for an accomplished leader.

Gay officially took office in July following the departure of former University President Lawrence S. Bacow in June. Gay’s inauguration — which featured speeches, student performances, and age-old Harvard traditions — marked a formal celebration of her presidency and career at Harvard.

Mariela Rodriguez Aguilar ’26 described Gay’s inauguration as a “special day for the University.”

“Her being the first woman, person of color to serve as president — it’s really, as they said earlier, historic,” Aguilar said. “How can I not want to be here, despite the weather?”

During the ceremony, crimson-colored banners with the Harvard seal hung in trees across the yard to commemorate Gay’s presidency. In a nod to Gay’s Haitian background, upperclassman house dining halls served specialized Haitian cuisine for dinner.

Emily D. Ramirez ’24 said she appreciated the lengths the University went to to make the celebration “joyous,” even amid the rain.

“I was kind of surprised by the amount of fanfare,” Ramirez said. “I definitely think it’s very deserving. I feel like celebrating Claudine is such a huge thing.”

Eunice S. Kim ’26 praised the decorations put up across Harvard Yard for the celebration.

“All of those banners that they have up here just bring a sense of community that I really appreciate,” Kim said. “I think they’ve done a good job.”

Kim said she was especially inspired to celebrate Gay’s appointment because of the president’s background as a child of immigrants.

“Seeing someone that really understands and comes from a similar background was super powerful,” Kim said. “I really want to be here to celebrate her accomplishments. She serves as a beacon of hope for people of color, especially women as well, that leadership positions this high are possible.”

Harvard Law School student Aanya Mishra said she believes having a president from a more diverse background “opens doors for a lot of different progressive avenues.”

“We are yet to see what that will mean, but this definitely looks very promising for education as a whole,” Mishra said.

Though the inauguration events occurred throughout Friday morning into the late afternoon, classes were not canceled for the celebration.

Dara O. Omoloja ’26 said she wasn’t able to “immerse” herself in the inauguration events because she had a full day of classes during the festivities.

“I’m happy to celebrate with Miss Claudine Gay, but I do wish that I could have been more involved today,” Omoloja said.

“I’m definitely celebrating with her in spirit,” she added.

—Staff writer J. Sellers Hill contributed reporting.

—Staff writer Nia L. Orakwue can be reached at Follow her on X @nia_orakwue.

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