Thursday, May 30, 2013

Barry's 35th reunion blog - May 30, 2013

The Harvard alma mater begins, "Fair Harvard, we join in thy jubilee throng..." And throng they do. Harvard has over 300,000 alumni, and 20% of them live outside the United States. But today they all seemed to be in Harvard Yard.

It was a day of pomp and ceremony. One of the traditions of commencement is for a bagpiper to go around to all the dorms and wake the graduating seniors with bagpipe music. Following that rude awakening, they are given a breakfast of cornflakes and champagne... well, champagne, anyway...

But as returning alumni, we had to make our way at least a quarter of a mile away to a tent located near the Science Center for a simpler breakfast. Degrees are granted by President Drew Faust at the morning exercises in Harvard Yard. That's not a terribly interesting thing to watch, plus I knew that I would be on my feet in the hot sun for a good part of the afternoon performing my duties as a marshall. So I went back to my room after breakfast to work on my remarks for the class memorial service tomorrow.

But the morning exercises have their high points. One is the Latin Oration. A graduating senior gives a speech, usually humorous, in Latin. When I graduated all the seniors were given translations so that we would laugh at the appropriate moments and our parents would be impressed by our erudition (not to mention believing that we had acquired the occupationally essential skill of knowing Latin). But today, alas, they display the translation on enormous screens at several places in Harvard Yard. O tempora! O mores!!

But both at breakfast and lunch I got to see former roommate Warren Behr and his wife Dr. Karen Freund (also an undergraduate friend).

My marshall duties were not onerous. I had to hand out "picket signs" that said "1977", "1954", and "1963" to the appropriate classes. Amazingly, there was an alumnus present today who is 104 years old. And I saw several alumni back for their 50th reunion. Apparently, going to Harvard is good for your health!

The worst part of "marshaling" was being out in the hot sun in morning coat, vest, and top hat. The outfit looks good but it's too damn hot!

Ms. Winfrey was a little disappointing. Her presence is wonderful, and I would kill to have her voice. But her speech was right out of the Golden Book of Commencement addresses: "Turn mistakes into opportunities" and that sort of thing.

The alma mater goes on: "And with blessings surrender thee o'er..." And boy, do they ever surrender their blessings to Harvard! The 25th reunion class raised about $150 million for the university. I believe my class "only" raised $50 million for our 25th reunion.

But "Fair Harvard" - our alma mater - does move me: "First flower of their wilderness! Star of their night / Calm rising through change and thro' storm." Although it's not nearly as funny as Tom Lehrer's send up of a Harvard fight song: "Fight fiercely, Harvard! Fight, fight, fight! / Demonstrate to them our skill. / Albeit they possess the might / nonetheless, we have the will. / How shall we celebrate our victory? / We shall invite the whole team up for tea! (How jolly!) / Let's try not to injure them / but fight, fight, fight. (Let's not be rough, though.) / and fight, fight, fight."