Annual Meeting of the Harvard Alumni Association
The Commencement afternoon Program is the Annual Meeting of the Harvard Alumni Association. The 2019 program includes welcoming remarks and acknowledgments by Margaret M. Wang AB ’09, president of the Harvard Alumni Association (HAA), Lawrence Bacow, president of Harvard University, and Chancellor Angela D. Merkel, Commencement speaker; an introduction of the chief marshal; announcement of Overseer and HAA director election results; and 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.
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
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 Commencement 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."
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.