May 27, 2023

Hankering for History

Hanker: To have a strong, often restless desire, in this case for–you guessed it–history!

On This Day, in 1642, Harvard Had its First Commencement

1 min read
Harvard College

Harvard College

Harvard College
Harvard College

On this day, in 1642, Harvard had its first commencement. This single event led to America’s growing trend of graduations. This 1642 commencement was America’s “first taste of nonreligious European ritual.” [1] Where the original ‘ritual’ was reserved for those that accomplished the feat of graduation from college, now it is a ‘landmark occasion’ that happens half a dozen times. Pre-K graduation,¬†kindergarten graduation, grade school, middle school, high school…you get the picture.

Commencements were originally a grand event. Along with the academic procession–there were nine “commencers” for the 1642 Harvard Commencement, if you cared–there was a lavish feast, public speeches given from all the commencers, and then a series of debates on age-old topics.

As America has watered down the significance of the graduation ceremony, just remember as you graduate, whether it be from pre-school, high school, or your PhD, that you have accomplished something and in doing so are partaking in one of America’s oldest traditions.


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