Harvard Alumni Association

Afternoon Program

Afternoon Program

Harvard has been closely monitoring the COVID-19 outbreak as well as guidance set forth by the CDC, and the University's recommendations have been evolving quickly as the situation unfolds. The Office of the President announced that our community will not host Commencement exercises in person this May. We recognize how disappointing this is - especially for our students and their family and friends. Understanding why we must move forward this way does not make it any less difficult, but the health and safety of our community is paramount.

If there are further updates to Commencement and related activities, the University will post updates here. Thank you for your patience and understanding during this time.

To stay up to date on Harvard's response to the outbreak, visit the University's COVID-19 website, which will be updated with information as it becomes available.

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Annual Meeting of the Harvard Alumni Association

The Afternoon Program is the Annual Meeting of the Harvard Alumni Association. The 2020 program will be hosted by HAA President Alice Hill AB '81, AM '88, PhD '91 and includes remarks by Harvard University President Lawrence S. Bacow JD ’76, MPP ’76, PhD ’78 and the Commencement speaker Martin Baron; an introduction of the 25th Reunion Chief Marshal Koma Gandy Fischbein AB’95; the announcement of Harvard Overseer and HAA Director election results; and the presentation of the Harvard Medals.

The Afternoon Program takes place from 2:30 p.m. until 4:15 p.m. at Tercentenary Theatre in Harvard Yard.

History

During its first 10 years, the HAA participated in Commencement (in those years, it was a two-day celebration with Commencement Exercises on Wednesday) and shared the Thursday meeting with the Phi Beta Kappa Society and the Boylston Prize orations. It was not until 1867 that the HAA began to share Commencement Day with the new graduates. Then, in 1869, the alumni were charged with management of the Commencement Afternoon Exercises, over which the president of the HAA has presided ever since. (Renny Little, Reflections on Our Past, 1840–2005)

Happy Observance of Commencement Committee

Happy Committee

The Happy Observance of the Commencement Committee is known affectionately as the “Happy Committee.” This group of committed alumni volunteers was first charged with oversight of the Afternoon Program in 1869. They are recognized by their unmistakable regalia: top hats and tails for men, all black outfits adorned with crimson rosettes for women; and the noteworthy batons that came into use in the 1980s. Today, a group of more than 80 committee members — assisted by hundreds of alumni marshals and aids — escort students, family members, guests, dignitaries, and alumni in and out of Tercentenary Theatre; assist with the alumni spreads; and marshal the annual alumni procession that commences the Annual Meeting of the Harvard Alumni Association. For more insight into the Happy Committee, read the recent story "Make Someone Happy."

Harvard Medals

Drew Faust with Harvard Medalist

First awarded in 1981, the Harvard Medal recognizes extraordinary service to the University. The service can range across University life, from teaching, leadership, and innovation to fundraising, administration, and volunteerism.

Past recipients of the Harvard Medal (PDF)