For those interested in some of the history behind today's Harvard commencement, the Harvard Gazette has an entertaining look at some of the enduring and colorful rituals of the event. Some highlights:
-- Sheriffs on horseback. Dressed in top hats, morning coats, and striped pants, the sheriffs of Middlesex and Suffolk counties enter the Harvard quad on horseback to officially open the morning ceremonies. The Middlesex sheriff then opens the ceremonies with the words, "This meeting will be in order.'' One interesting footnote: In 1994, then-Middlesex Sheriff John McGonigle did not attend because he had been indicted on bribery and racketeering charges. The three-century tradition was restored the following year.
On the sartorial front, the story goes that Governor James Michael Curley showed up in 1935 wearing knee britches, silk stockings, a powdered wig, and a plumed three-cornered hat. When commencement marshals complained, Curley allegedly produced a a copy of the Statutes of the Massachusetts Bay Colony and declared that he was the only properly dressed attendee.
Harvard President Edward Holyoke, who served from 1737 to 1769, bought the unusual chair. Its year-round home is the Fogg Art Museum. For those in the audience, the folding variety must suffice.
-- Ad infinitum. One student is chosen to give a five-minute Latin oration during the ceremony. Only graduating seniors, the Gazette points out, are provided with translations of the speech. Others are left to figure it out on their own.
Also on boston.com: Columnist Sam Allis reflects on his commencement experience as a member of Harvard's Class of '69.
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