Harvard Alumni Association

Afternoon Program

Afternoon Program


In consultation with University leadership and Harvard University Health Services, the Annual Meeting of the Harvard Alumni Association (also known as the Commencement Afternoon Program) will be held in a virtual-only format this year. No in-person gathering is planned.  The program will take place on Friday, June 4, 2021 (timing to be confirmed soon). 

While we recognize this news is difficult for those looking forward to returning to campus to participate in this alumni tradition, we are looking forward to our annual celebration of alumni and volunteers and the opportunity to virtually connect with alumni globally as part of this year’s event. We will preserve many of the time-honored traditions including celebrating volunteers and College reunion classes, honoring Harvard Medalists, and hearing from the Harvard and HAA presidents. We also look forward to welcoming a keynote alumni speaker this year. 

We will be sharing more details in the new year as they are confirmed. 

Further questions are best directed to haa_volunteerleadership@harvard.edu

Last updated: December 15, 2020  




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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)