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Harvard University President-elect Claudine Gay will be inaugurated in a ceremony steeped in tradition in Tercentenary Theatre on Sept. 29, the Office of the University Marshal announced Monday.
Gay was elected to serve as Harvard’s 30th president in December following a brief five-month search. When she takes office in Massachusetts Hall on July 1, Gay will become the first person of color and only the second woman to lead America’s oldest academic institution.
Gay, the outgoing dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, is currently leading searches for four deans, including her own successor. Leaders of Harvard’s Divinity School, School of Public Health, and School of Engineering and Applied Sciences will also step down from their roles at the end of the 2022-23 academic year.
The inauguration ceremony will likely feature a series of storied traditions, with Gay expected to receive the University’s keys, seals, and charter before sitting briefly in the notoriously uncomfortable Holyoke chair as her predecessors have.
But one long-standing tradition, dating back to the past nine presidents, will change.
For the first time in 160 years, a Harvard president will be inaugurated in a month other than October. Thomas Hill, who was sworn in as the 20th University president on March 4, 1863, is the most recent example of a presidential installment ceremony occurring outside the month of October.
Gay, however, will continue a more recent trend of holding the presidential installment ceremony on a Friday. The four most recent Harvard presidents — Lawrence S. Bacow, Drew G. Faust, Lawrence H. Summers, and Neil L. Rudenstine — were inaugurated on Fridays in October.
Gay’s inauguration date was selected based on a variety of factors, including previously scheduled events, religious holidays, and other calendar considerations, according to University spokesperson Jason A. Newton.
The details of the inauguration are still being planned, but it will be held in the afternoon and is expected to feature a variety of prominent attendees — including all of Gay’s living presidential predecessors — to welcome her into the new role. Gay will also give a speech of her own, which will likely outline her plans for her tenure as president.
At Bacow’s inauguration, a slew of academic and public figures gathered to address the audience, including L. Rafael Reif, president of MIT at the time, and Amanda S.C. Gorman ’20, the inaugural United States Youth Poet Laureate, who delivered an original poem.
Bacow’s installation ceremony also saw demonstrations related to the #MeToo movement in protest of the nomination of Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh — who faced accusations of sexual assault — to the Supreme Court and to highlight the presence of sexual harrassment and assault on college campuses.
The afternoon ceremony will be open to all Harvard affiliates.
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