Long ago (1988) I moved to Berkeley and started sending a monthly "newsletter" to my Boston friends. When I returned to Boston (1993), I continued the tradition for about five more years (or until I had kids). Looking back, I realize that I was actually blogging. Each newsletter contained anywhere from a few to several blog posts. Having been silent for the past decade or so, I've decided to resume these activities. Don't expect anything profound -- I tend to focus on what I find entertaining or amusing and perhaps sometimes informative. We shall see!

Sunday, July 14, 2019

The Long Kiss Goodbye

It was the beginning of the end -- my daughter's high school graduation, my last Harvard commencement as a faculty member, and it was my 35th reunion. Unsurprisingly, it was a jumble of emotion.

I was repeatedly asked "how it felt" to march in my last commencement ... but wait -- I get to come back for reunions and march as an alum, so perhaps not my last, but yeah, it was a special one. I was struck by two things in particular: the 25th reunion class were my students!? How could that possibly be? I found it significantly more shocking that I had 25th reunion students than that I was celebrating my 35th reunion. And then there was the national anthem. As I stood listening, I realized that quite possibly, the next national anthem I hear at a Commencement will be O Canada. Sobering. (I spent the afternoon learning the words, in English; the French words will come later.) [My daughter's high school graduation preceded Harvard's and I don't think they played the national anthem, anyway.]

A jumble.

The Harvard Crimson and I have not always been BFFs, but of late, we've had a good relationship. Last year, the commencement issue included a profile of my colleague, former Dean of Harvard College, Harry Lewis. It seemed fitting -- Harry is the heart and soul of computer science at Harvard; he was the Dean of the College; of course they would do a profile piece about him after he'd announced his upcoming retirement (they also did a wonderful piece about him and his wife, Marlyn McGrath Lewis, this year). But it came as a bit of a shock when managing editor, Hannah Natanson, asked if they could do a profile of me for the Commencement issue. I'm sure there is no bias when I say it's the best thing that I've seen the Crimson do. I had a blast working with the reporters, who managed to unearth an impressive array of characters from my past (not all of whom appeared in the final copy, but to whom I am still extraordinarily grateful). I was happy to see that my habit of speaking up was spun in a positive light and that it was referenced by most who wrote; it is, perhaps, the most important thing I've done at Harvard. But most of all,  I am deeply humbled by the piece they produced and the kind words that my friends and colleagues offered. (And while I normally hate watching and listening to myself in video, the video piece, which I missed the first several times, was lovely.)

A jumble.

Our memorial service -- 8:30 AM on Friday morning. We all showed up. In a class of roughly 1600, we've lost 57 classmates. Some were my friends: bandie Larry Millet, fellow Computer Scientists David Brownell, my twin (we share a birthday) and inspirational mathematician, Matthew Bovell. But unsurprisingly, my thoughts turned to Alex, and I found myself silenced and in tears during the final verse of Swing Low Sweet Chariot. Alex should have been graduating. I heard from both his parents in the days leading up to graduation. My heart continues to break for them every time I think of him.

We lost another member of the class of 2018, Luke Tang, during the fall of 2015. While I did not know Luke, I remember that a group of his friends were taking CS61 from me that semester. I still remember where they used to sit in the room and how I wanted to, somehow, be able to ease their pain in the days and weeks after we lost Luke. Until I started writing this blog, I didn't realize the light that came out of this darkness. I've not yet seen the documentary, but I want to. And I want to know why every faculty member hasn't seen this; why it's not discussed; why we continue to keep these stories in the dark.

A jumble.

The SEAS Commencement Reception -- a chance to meet the families of some of my wonderful students. Lots of proud families and many wonderful pictures with my students, my colleagues, their families.

Reunion receptions. Classmates I haven't seen since Freshman year; classmates I've never met; classmates I see regularly. It's all a blur.

A commencement address to the students completing their Master's degrees in Information Technology fields. At the encouragement of the students in my online business analytics program (HBAP) with HBS, I talk about courage, perseverance, and gender equality. I later give that talk to the HBAP cohort at their immersion.

Reunion panels and talks -- the raw, honesty brings us together in a way that four years at Harvard never did. It took thirty-five years of life to create class cohesion so palpable that nearly all of us used the same words afterwards to describe what an amazing reunion it had been.

A jumble.

Then commencement and reunion are over, and it's officially summer.  Israel, Michael Rabin. Weekly lunches with my group. Birthday cakes. Many, many coffee, breakfast, and lunch dates with friends and colleagues. The Harvard club of Rochester, an awkward coming home of sorts, but a fabulous group of people. Marlyn and Harry, the two who have been with me since before I was admitted to  Harvard and until now, celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. Teagan takes me to see Dirty Dancing. Soccer. A going away party with the chucks. DE Shaw Research; MongoDB World. More lunches with my students. More soccer. Usenix annual tech. DC. DARPA deliverables. Late nights and long weekends leading up to DARPA deliverables. More lunches with students. The Eagles. An outing to Kimball Farms with the Oracle crew. Dinners with friends. Soccer. USWNT in Hartford. The quintessential NYC experience: waiting in line for six hours in a torrential downpour for Hamilton tickets; success! ISAT in Wood's Hole. My students begin departing -- to home, to Africa, to NYC. Students slowly return to campus. My last week; Teagan's first. Heat. Humidity. More heat. Boxes. Drinks with colleagues. More boxes. Pictures. Lots and lots of pictures. Pictures from a life time ago.


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