Harvard Alumni Association

Happy Alumni

Afternoon Program

Annual Meeting of the Harvard Alumni Association

The Commencement Afternoon Program is the Annual Meeting of the Harvard Alumni Association. It includes welcoming remarks and acknowledgments by Susan Morris Novick AB '85, president of the Harvard Alumni Association (HAA); the presentation of the Harvard Medals; an announcement of Harvard Overseer and HAA Board elections; remarks by Harvard University President and Lincoln Professor of History Drew Gilpin Faust; and an address by the Commencement speaker.

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

Commencement Speaker Information

The Harvard Commencement speaker delivers his or her address during the Afternoon Program. The 2018 Commencement speaker will be announced in the coming months.

Last year’s Commencement speaker was Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook, the social networking platform widely credited with transforming how almost 1.9 billion people interact. Read more...


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."

Harvard Medals
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)