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Dear Members of the Harvard Community,

I write today to announce that we will gather as a community online on Thursday, May 27, to award degrees and celebrate the achievements of our graduates. After degrees are conferred, each School at Harvard will follow up with its own special virtual event and afterward deliver diplomas through the mail. More details will be shared by the Commencement Office as they become available.

The delay of our Commencement Exercises for two years running is deeply disappointing, but public health and safety must continue to take precedence. Though circumstances may well improve by spring, it takes months of planning to prepare for our usual festivities, which draw to campus and to Cambridge thousands of people from around the world. Right now, the risk posed by that possibility is too great, but please know that one day we will welcome the Class of 2020 and the Class of 2021 back to campus for an unforgettable—and unforgettably joyous—Commencement.

Fortunately, we learned last year that a virtual celebration can be meaningful and moving in its own ways. I am delighted to announce that Ruth Simmons, Ph.D. ’73, will deliver our principal address. President Simmons—now at Prairie View A&M University after serving as president at both Smith College and Brown University—is among America’s foremost advocates for higher education. Having led a women’s college, an Ivy League research university, and a historically black university, she has a unique perspective on how very different types of institutions contribute to the fabric of our nation. She has also defended with great passion the possibility of improving our society by learning from our differences. I very much look forward to hearing her remarks later this year.

Thank you, as always, for your goodwill and patience as we continue to meet the challenges created by the pandemic. We are fortunate that it is now possible to imagine the day our graduates will file into Tercentenary Theatre once again, lifted by long-awaited applause in the good company of their family and friends. Until then, keep hope and take care.

All the best,