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Conan O’Brien ’85 to Address Harvard Seniors as Part of Commencement Festivities

Conan C. O'Brien '85 discusses the importance of a liberal arts education with Drew G. Faust in Sanders Theatre in 2016.
Conan C. O'Brien '85 discusses the importance of a liberal arts education with Drew G. Faust in Sanders Theatre in 2016. By Saul A. Urbina-Johanson
By Juliet E. Isselbacher and Amanda Y. Su, Crimson Staff Writers

Comedian and television host Conan C. O’Brien ’85 will speak at the Class of 2020’s virtual Commencement celebration on May 28, Harvard wrote in an email to College seniors Tuesday afternoon.

After the coronavirus crisis sent undergraduates home and shuttered campus in March, the University announced that it would award degrees and honor the graduates with a virtual ceremony on May 28.

O’Brien is best known for hosting the late-night talk shows “Late Night with Conan O’Brien,” “The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien,” and, since 2010, “Conan.” As a Harvard undergraduate, he served as president of the Harvard Lampoon, a semi-secret Sorrento Square social organization that used to occasionally publish a so-called humor magazine.

O’Brien last came to campus in 2016 for a sit-down discussion with former University President Drew G. Faust about his career and the value of a liberal arts education. He also delivered the 2000 Class Day speech, during which he humorously warned graduates that they were “in for a lifetime of ‘And you went to Harvard?’”

The live-streamed celebration for graduating seniors will immediately follow a University-wide event, which will begin at 11:00 a.m. During the larger celebration, Harvard will confer degrees, mailing diplomas to students’ permanent addresses shortly thereafter.

Aside from O’Brien’s speech, the undergraduate event will feature a video made by class members, remarks from Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana, appearances by the 2020 Class Marshals, greetings from faculty deans, and a number of “student-driven” features, including festive videos and musical performances.

The celebration will also honor seniors who have done “extraordinary work” to serve the College at the onset of the COVID-19 crisis.

In addition to the virtual commencement programming, University President Lawrence S. Bacow previously assured the Class of 2020 that Harvard would host “traditional campus festivities that typically precede commencement” as soon as large gatherings are considered safe. The canonical festivities include the Class of 2020 photograph, the Class of 2020 family reception, and the Class Day picnic, among other events.

—Staff writer Juliet E. Isselbacher can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @julietissel

—Staff writer Amanda Y. Su can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @amandaysu.

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