Skip to main content

680 Receive Diplomas at HGSE Commencement

flowersDean Kathleen McCartney greeted 680 graduating students, who earned doctorates, master’s degrees, certificates in advanced studies, and even one bachelor’s degree, under a tent in Radcliffe Yard today.

“The first words I will share are not mine,” McCartney said. “Rather, they belong to one of you, who told me ‘We have to hit the ground listening.’ This is a good lesson for the class of 2012 as you embark on the next phase of your brilliant careers.”

The 2012 commencement ceremonies gave graduates, faculty, staff, family, and friends an opportunity to focus on and appreciate the diversity that surrounds them. Earlier in the day, HGSE graduates gathered at the Tercentenary Theater in Harvard Yard for the annual morning commencement exercises where their degrees were officially conferred. They walked with children’s books in hand, some even wearing black antibullying bracelets.

McCartney’s commencement speech focused on the subject of bullying. After seeing a television interview of the mother of a son who had been violently assaulted as a result of bullying, McCartney took it as a call to action. “Our job, as educators and parents, is to support our children in their efforts to create community standards where they work and play. We need to help them own this problem, and we can start by modeling the way forward,” she said.

While McCartney didn’t have the answer, she suggested that we start talking about how hard it can be to take the perspective of another person and create communities where everyone learns to be “upstanders” rather than bystanders.

“Recently, I told one of my best friends that I was going to talk about bullying in my commencement speech, and he asked me, ‘You don’t really think you can stop kids from bullying, do you?’” she said. “Yes, I do – along with committed educators, parents, policymakers, entertainers, and especially young people. My mother taught me that whenever you are given a choice between optimism and pessimism, choose optimism.”

Following her speech, McCartney invited all the graduates to take the stage and accept their diplomas. Students shuffled across the stage, some accompanied by their children and others handing roses to McCartney.

In a tearful moment for many, Professor Thomas Hehir gave Kevin Mintz of Harvard College a bachelor’s diploma. “We don’t normally distribute bachelor of arts degrees but we made an exception for Kevin Mintz,” he said, noting that when Mintz came to Harvard four years ago he found the college wasn’t as friendly for disabled students. So, Mintz “wheeled” over to the Ed School, where he found a welcoming environment that “values all children and all people,” Hehir said.

Judging by the standing ovation for Mintz as he accepted his degree, the Ed School community agreed that Mintz’ effort and warmness had forever changed HGSE, as Hehir attested.

Anu Cairo, Ed.D.’12, who completed her dissertation a few months ago, said she was moved by the ceremony. “I really liked the focus on bullying,” she said. “And the bachelor degree part was so moving and reflective of the Ed School community.”

To read or view Dean McCartney’s speech, visit:

To watch Kevin Mintz receive his diploma, visit:


For full Commencement coverage:



The latest research, perspectives, and highlights from the Harvard Graduate School of Education

Related Articles