College Returns to In-Person Convocation, Invites Freshmen and Sophomores


Sporting dresses, suits, and class pins, hundreds of students processed into Tercentenary Theatre for the College’s annual Convocation Tuesday. A few hours later, hundreds more did the same.

In two separate ceremonies throughout the day, Harvard celebrated the arrival to campus of the Class of 2025 as well as the Class of 2024, which was not able to gather this time last year due to health restrictions on campus. The morning’s ceremony focused on sophomores, whose convocation was virtual last year, and the afternoon convocation welcomed current freshmen.

In his address to the Class of 2025, University President Lawrence S. Bacow encouraged freshmen to be appreciative despite the persistent effects of Covid-19.

“Yes, things right now could be a lot better — you know, we could not be wearing these masks, we wouldn’t have so many rules to follow — but we must continue to acknowledge and celebrate all that’s good about being here, all that’s good about being together,” Bacow said. “I really urge you to give yourself a break, and really savor this moment.”


Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana in his speech implored freshmen to bring an open mind to perspectives they may disagree with.

“Humility is not a word that many people associate with Harvard. Let’s change that,” Khurana said. “When we listen with humility, we are open to being wrong and recognizing that we know less than what we thought we knew.”

Bacow and Khurana on Tuesday addressed both years, as did Dean of Students Katherine G. O’Dair and Dean of Undergraduate Education Amanda Claybaugh. The programs also featured performances by undergraduate vocal groups and the University band.

Last year, members of the Class of 2024 invited to live on campus were unable to experience many freshman traditions, including in-person pre-orientation, convocation, Annenberg dining, and more.

Addressing the Class of 2024 Tuesday morning, O’Dair said she has been waiting 12 months to give students a proper welcome to campus.

“Typically convocation is a ceremony that marks your official start here at Harvard College, and although you are one year behind you at Harvard College, in so many ways, this is a new beginning,” she said. “As we finally reconvene as a full community after so much time apart, this is a good time to think about how we want to reset ourselves and our lives in this unique moment.”

In his remarks to sophomores, Khurana described opportunities and challenges students’ second year at the College may bring.

“After a year of living with so much uncertainty, it’s understandable that you may begin this year with anxiety and more uncertainty,” he said. “I know I am a little bit.”

“It might be about your concentration, about what you want to commit your time and energy to, but I hope you will give yourself permission to live with that uncertainty for a while,” Khurana added.

Bacow assured the Class of 2024 that Harvard is committed to providing “as normal” a college experience as possible.

“We’re all — let’s face it — trying to find our own footing this semester,” Bacow said. “I want you to know that there are many, many people on this campus dedicated to ensuring that your second year at Harvard College is everything that you hope it to be.”

—Staff writer Cara J. Chang contributed reporting.

—Staff writer Alex Koller can be reached at

—Staff writer Taylor C. Peterman can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @taylorcpeterman.