By Kiera Reilly, C’93 @KieraReilly
I always tell people that Commencement Day at Penn is the happiest day on campus, and this year, on May 19 as Penn celebrated its 258th Commencement, was no exception. In Alumni Relations, we help with the alumni processional portion of the event – alumni from every undergraduate class at Penn carry flags from their graduating year and march into Franklin Field after the graduates.
We arrive early in the morning, so we can “get robed” in our caps and gowns, and then wait for the alumni to arrive. The alumni robing is near the academic processional staging area, and I happened to be looking at President Gutmann and commencement speaker John Legend’s, C’99, chairs when the University Mace was delivered. Leslie Kruhly, the Secretary of the University, leads the academic procession carrying the mace.
After everyone is robed, we wait a bit before we get the cue to begin. Here everyone is lined up waiting for the academic procession to pass.
Then we march down Locust Walk to the front of the Sweeten Alumni House. It was a beautiful day and everyone on campus was lining the walk cheering and clapping for the alumni.
The alumni flag bearers then line Locust Walk and wait for the graduates. The graduates march down Locust Walk through our line of alumni flags, and the alumni cheer, clap and congratulate the newest members of Penn Alumni.
Some graduates casually walk by, others pose for pictures with their friends, or their parents and family try to capture a candid moment of them walking to graduate. And in the midst of the several thousand graduates passing us by, at the front of the alumni flag line, was Harry Gross, W’44. Harry graduated in 1944, that’s seventy years ago for those of you having a bit of trouble with the math. He wore a fun Red and Blue hat, and as he sat in his chair holding the Class of 1944 flag, he was arguably the most popular man on Locust Walk. Yes, everyone wanted to wave to President Gutmann and take a selfie with John Legend, but Harry was the star.
Graduates thanked him for coming. They shook his hand, they said wow. And when they said congratulations, Harry simply replied, “Congratulations to YOU!” And then he told them that they’d be in his same spot in seventy years!
Congratulations to Penn’s Class of 2014! We’ll see you in 2084 (and we hope every year in between).
Hurrah, Hurrah, for the Red and the Blue!
Here’s Harry leading the alumni processional into Franklin Field.
Watch videos of President Gutmann’s commencement speech and John Legend’s address here (and also photos of the day).
See all the Penn Commencement tweets #PennGrad.