When many of the 679 Ed School students graduating today first arrived on Appian Way, it was impossible for them to imagine standing under the Radcliffe Yard tent at Commencement with their degree work complete.
Dean Kathleen McCartney greeted the 679 graduating students -- 54 who earned doctorates, 619 who earned master's degrees, and six who received certificates in advanced studies -- and welcomed them as alumni of the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
"You are now a member of a community like no other I know," said Dean Kathleen McCartney. "You will take sustenance from this place, for it will serve as your intellectual home. You will take pride as you continue to learn about the work of the faculty, students, staff, and alumni. And you will strengthen this community through the good work you are about to do."
Earlier in the day, HGSE graduates gathered with Spanish-language children's books, which will be donated to Learning through Libraries, in tow at the Tercentenary Theater in Harvard Yard for the annual morning Commencement ceremony, where their degrees were officially conferred.
At the HGSE diploma ceremony, McCartney reflected on the great work of teachers, particularly how every person at the commencement had a teacher who changed their life and led them to where they stand today.
"What you may not know, at least not yet, is that teachers are grateful to the students who come after them," McCartney said.
"There are many pressing problems facing education, but Ted Sizer, our former dean whom we lost this year and miss dearly, taught us that education is the profession of hope. You make us hopeful," she said. "All of us on the faculty have seen the future this year in your papers, in your class discussions, and in the community you have strengthened. We know the future is in good hands - your hands."
McCartney noted that there is still much more work to be done for learners throughout the world. "We know that you are prepared to continue your good work. We, the faculty, are grateful to you, those who come after us, because we know you are ready to take the stage," she said.
In a Commencement first, McCartney called the HGSE Harmonicas -- an a cappella group consisting of Ed School students -- on stage to perform the official Commencement song, "Take the Stage." The song was written especially for the day by graduating master's students Ken Offricht, Ed.M.'10, and Leigh Jansson, Ed.M.'10.
Following the performance, McCartney invited all the graduates to, literally, take the stage and earn their diplomas. Students shuffled across the stage excitedly to receive diplomas often with their children.
Directly following commencement, faculty, graduates, and families mingled and took photographs in Radcliffe Yard and around the HGSE campus. But for many students the reality that they were now alumni had yet to sink in.
"I just thought it was going to be an ordinary graduation and I could miss it, but I'm so glad I didn't," said Yasmine Campbell, who earned her master's from the Teacher Education Program. "It was a high point for me. It made me realize this is now it; move on." Campbell - a native of Jamaica - will be teaching middle school math in the Boston area this fall.
Simone Zamore, who performed on stage with the HGSE Harmonicas and earned her master's in Arts in Education, said she felt that today was the culmination of everything the students had worked for throughout the year. "It's a little overwhelming because there's just so many people and we're all so happy, and it's just very emotional for all of us," she continued. "But it's a wonderful, wonderful experience. Everything today was exactly as it should have been. Everything was perfect."
Editor's note: The HGSE Communications Office would like to congratulate our graduate, Jill Anderson, who received her master's today. Way to go, Jill!