Graduates from the three most recent classes were celebrated by Harvard Divinity School and Harvard University
For the first time in three years, Commencement was back at HDS. From May 23 through May 29, Harvard Divinity School and Harvard University honored the Class of 2022, as well as the graduates from the classes of 2020 and 2021, with joyous celebrations.
Harvard hosted six affinity graduation ceremonies in 2022. The student-led, staff supported ceremonies recognized and celebrated the accomplishments of graduates from historically marginalized and underrepresented communities. This year, on May 24, HDS hosted the Lavender Graduation Ceremony, which recognized LGBTQIS+ students and their allies for academic achievements and contributions to the Harvard community. Boston Poet Laureate Porsha Olayiwola delivered the keynote address.
Each year, on the eve of Commencement, the graduating students and wider HDS community gather at Memorial Church for the Multireligious Commencement Service. On May 25, the community joined across the many religious and spiritual traditions represented within the School and this year’s graduating class.
The Rev. Erica Williams, MRPL ’22, led those gathered in a libation for the ancestors from the traditions of the African Diaspora. She asked the graduating students to call out the names of those from the seen and unseen world who carried them on the journey through their time at HDS. She also called out the names of the African and Indigenous people enslaved by the University and its affiliates. As the group called out the names they repeated “Ase’,” which means “so be it.”
Later during the service, Alex Baskin and Alexa Klein-Mayer, both MDiv ’22, offered a blessing in motion, which got nearly all of those in attendance to stand up, move their hands, arms, and bodies, and even let out a roar of exultation and relief.
This year’s faculty speaker was Stephanie Paulsell, Susan Shallcross Swartz Professor of the Practice of Christian Studies. During her address, Paulsell spoke of creating from fragments. “When we set our fragments—our underlinings, our marginalia—down next to each other, a third thing is made. A new possibility. An opening for witness, for action, for critique, for reverence. An opening for new forms of living that honor the complexity of human life, safeguard human dignity, and bear witness to the multiple possibilities our humanity holds,” she said.
At the end of the service, Maggie Rogers, MRPL ’22, performed a powerful rendition of “Over the Rainbow.”
Following the service, the graduating students gathered on the steps of Memorial Church to take their class photo. They then returned to the HDS campus for a reception lasting into the evening.
Bright and early the next morning on May 26, students gathered at HDS and processed over to Harvard Yard where they participated in Harvard University’s Commencement Morning Exercises.
As one of three student orators during the University’s Commencement, graduating MDiv student Lindsay Sanwald spoke on behalf of Harvard graduate students on recognizing our ancestors and being great visionaries.
The graduates then headed back to the HDS campus for the Diploma Awarding Ceremony. Inclusive of degrees awarded in November 2021 and March and May 2022, HDS awarded 131 degrees to its graduating students on May 26. The total included 39 master of divinity degrees, 74 master of theological studies degrees, 2 master of theology degrees, 5 doctor of theology degrees, and, for the first time as part of the new program, 11 master of religion and public life degrees.
jessica young chang, MDiv '22, was selected by a panel of students, staff, and faculty as the class speaker for this year’s Diploma Awarding Ceremony. In her speech she urged her peers to rest, grow, and love as they move forward in a world full of challenges. “It feels scary: it should feel scary; the stakes are high. Perhaps you don’t know if you’re up for it; I maintain that we are, because we are here,” she said.
Following the Diploma Awarding Ceremony, students celebrated with their cheering and beaming peers, families, friends, and HDS staff and faculty.
The party didn’t stop there. On Sunday, May 29, the classes of 2020 and 2021 finally got their time to celebrate in person at Harvard and HDS. More than 400 graduates, family members, friends, and faculty members gathered on campus to honor the accomplishments of the classes whose commencements were postponed because of the pandemic.
The day started out with a University-wide Commencement ceremony in Tercentenary Theatre. Following the ceremony, the graduates returned to the HDS campus for self-guided tours of Swartz Hall, graduate photos, and casual connection with fellow classmates.
The final ceremony of week was the Graduate Recognition Ceremony. The featured speakers were Ashley Lipscomb, MDiv ’20, Anna Del Castillo, MDiv ’21, Eboni Nash, MTS ’21, and Kayla Smith, MDiv ’21. (View their address.) The names of the 2020 and 2021 graduates were then read and each graduate was presented with a special gift.
To see more Commencement photos and highlights, follow Harvard Divinity School on Instagram.