Amadou Camara ’20, who concentrated in applied math with a focus in economics and computer science and a secondary in sociology, called the abrupt departure from campus in March 2020 a “crazy ending,” but he was glad to have another ending to his time at Harvard.
“It’s good to be back,” said Camara. “It’s good to see our friends, reminisce with them, and walk on the paths that we walked before. And it’s specially good to have that all come to an end and put a bow on it after two years.”
Ethan McCollister ’20, a social studies concentrator, echoed the sentiment. “Part of the Harvard experience is the traditionality of everything that happens here,” said McCollister. “It has been two years and a lot of people weren’t sure if this event was going to happen. But now here we are and it provides a good moment of finality to our college careers.”
Brandon Palacios ’21, who studied neuroscience with a secondary in economics, appreciated the time-travel component of the ceremony. “My class ended up missing a whole senior year,” said Palacios. “Maybe that is a feeling I’ll never be able to get over, but this provides some sort of closure. It’s great to see everybody. I felt everyone was the same. All the things felt the same. Even though people are more grown now and more mature, the personalities are still there, and the dynamics are still there. It’s just great to be around everybody and feel the way it used to be, which is really good.”
‘Happiness all around’
Among the many proud parents who attended Sunday’s ceremony was Nobuhle Zwane, who traveled from her native South Africa to enjoy the moment with her son, Mfundo Radebe ’20.
A national debate champion in his home country, Radebe received a full scholarship to study at Harvard. He graduated with concentrations in African Studies and economics.
“Mfundo was always a bright student and a young ambitious man,” his mother said.
A professional nurse, Zwane made her first trip overseas to attend the ceremony. She was accompanied by her daughters, Mpilwenhle, 6 years old, and Esihle, 9. (Work responsibilities kept her husband at home.) Zwane was filled with pride as she spoke of her son, who works for a management consulting company in Boston. The family lives in Umlazi, South Africa’s fourth-largest township.Of the Sunday ceremony, Zwane said she was impressed by the crowd, the pomp, the music, and the rituals. “We saw the graduation on the screen in 2020, but it is not the same. Emotions aren’t just the same. I couldn’t be happier now. It’s happiness all around.”
Living the dream
Santiago Aurelio Mota Sosa, an architect from Mexico City, was thrilled to celebrate his second master’s degree from the Harvard Graduate School of Design at Sunday’s Commencement.
Mota, who graduated with a master’s in design studies in energy and environment in 2020, earned a master’s in design engineering two years before.
“I was able to enjoy the full graduation experience in 2018, but this one is very special,” said Mota, who was accompanied by his wife, Danniely Staback Rodriguez, and his parents, who traveled from Mexico for the occasion. “I’m so happy.”
Mota’s parents, Humberto Epifanio Aurelio Mota Ramos and Patricia Sosa, were excited to share the joy. It was their first time at Harvard, and they marveled at the splendor of the ceremony and the buildings in the Yard.
“It’s a dream come true,” said Sosa. “Being here at this moment makes me recall of the time when he was a little boy. We’re grateful and proud to be here to accompany him and celebrate in person with him.”