Today, May 18, 2015, the University of Pennsylvania held its 259th Commencement ceremonies. Each year, while working as a staff member for Penn Alumni Relations, my colleagues and I would help alumni dress in academic regalia to prepare for the alumni processional into Franklin Field for Commencement. It was always one of the happiest days on campus as new graduates officially received their degrees and joined the ranks of Penn Alumni, and the alumni class representatives walking in the procession cheered the new graduates as they walked through the alumni flags lining Locust Walk in front of the Sweeten Alumni House.
This is my first time since 2001 that I am not at Commencement, but I watched the live webcast and followed along on social media with the hashtag #PennGrad. U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations Ambassador Samantha Power delivered the commencement address, and she received an honorary degree along with Arthur K. Asbury, Lee C. Bollinger, Joan Myers Brown, Rita Moreno (Rita Moreno!!), Ellen Ochoa, and Cass R. Sunstein. You can read more about the honorary degree recipients here.
Last year, I wrote a post about Penn’s 258th Commencement, which featured the commencement address by John Legend, C’99, and the happy times I shared during the ceremony with my colleague Casey Ryan, C’95, and alumnus Harry Gross, W’44.
My former colleague Steve Hamilton caught up with Harry Gross, W’44, who I highlight in my post below, again this year. Steve notes, “Among other things, Harry hosted WWDB’s ‘Speaking of Your Money,’ and wrote a regular newspaper column. He always was and still is a great guy and perfect gentleman.” I am very happy to see that Harry is still waving his class flag proudly at Commencement!
Here is my original post which appeared on the Frankly Penn blog on May 28, 2014.
Congratulations to the Penn Class of 2015!
By Kiera Reilly, C’93 @KieraReilly
I always tell people that Commencement Day at Penn is the happiest day on campus, and this year, on May 19 as Penn celebrated its 258th Commencement, was no exception. In Alumni Relations, we help with the alumni processional portion of the event – alumni from every undergraduate class at Penn carry flags from their graduating year and march into Franklin Field after the graduates.
We arrive early in the morning, so we can “get robed” in our caps and gowns, and then wait for the alumni to arrive. The alumni robing is near the academic processional staging area, and I happened to be looking at President Gutmann and commencement speaker John Legend’s, C’99, chairs when the University Mace was delivered. Leslie Kruhly, the Secretary of the University, leads the academic procession carrying the mace.
After everyone is robed, we wait a bit before we get the cue to begin. Here everyone is lined up waiting for the academic procession to pass.
Then we march down Locust Walk to the front of the Sweeten Alumni House. It was a beautiful day and everyone on campus was lining the walk cheering and clapping for the alumni.
The alumni flag bearers then line Locust Walk and wait for the graduates. The graduates march down Locust Walk through our line of alumni flags, and the alumni cheer, clap and congratulate the newest members of Penn Alumni.
Some graduates casually walk by, others pose for pictures with their friends, or their parents and family try to capture a candid moment of them walking to graduate. And in the midst of the several thousand graduates passing us by, at the front of the alumni flag line, was Harry Gross, W’44. Harry graduated in 1944, that’s seventy years ago for those of you having a bit of trouble with the math. He wore a fun Red and Blue hat, and as he sat in his chair holding the Class of 1944 flag, he was arguably the most popular man on Locust Walk. Yes, everyone wanted to wave to President Gutmann and take a selfie with John Legend, but Harry was the star.
Graduates thanked him for coming. They shook his hand, they said wow. And when they said congratulations, Harry simply replied, “Congratulations to YOU!” And then he told them that they’d be in his same spot in seventy years!
Congratulations to Penn’s Class of 2014! We’ll see you in 2084 (and we hope every year in between).
Hurrah, Hurrah, for the Red and the Blue!
Here’s Harry leading the alumni processional into Franklin Field.
See all the Penn Commencement tweets #PennGrad.
This post originally appeared on the Frankly Penn blog on May 28, 2014.