Calling on students to savor the moment and exult in being together in physical community, President Larry Bacow officiated a double Convocation, one for the Class of 2024 and another for the Class of 2025, Tuesday at Tercentenary Theatre.

“Spend some time during these first few weeks noticing and marking those aspects of community that you missed last year — the everyday exchanges and experiences that narrow gaps in understanding and make friends of strangers,”  Bacow said to the Class of 2024 in the morning celebration.

President Bacow.

President Larry Bacow addressed both Classes in Tercentenary Theatre Tuesday. In the afternoon ceremony he spoke of community, offering a teaching from the Talmud.

Rose Lincoln/Harvard Staff Photographer

“What did you use to take for granted that you now see in a different way? What do you savor most about time in person with your classmates and with your professors and mentors? Think about how you could shape the next three years to maximize those moments because those are the moments that will be with you for a lifetime,” he said.

The ceremony welcoming first-year students to Harvard was the first in-person Convocation since 2019. It was the second such event for the Class of 2024, which participated in an online Convocation last September.

In the afternoon, it was the Class of 2025’s turn to gather. Bacow again took up the theme of community, but this time using as a departure point a teaching from the Talmud on what it means to be wise, mighty, and wealthy.

Bacow counseled the class to resist prioritizing their own convictions and ambition, and instead to embrace community, consideration, and self-fulfillment.

“When you meet that someone [whose views differ widely from your own] — and you will — your first impulse may be to make your point, loudly and clearly. Try to resist that urge. Listen. Ask questions. Prompt conversation rather than conflict,” Bacow said, noting that the Talmud says a hallmark of a wise person is the ability to learn from everyone.

“If you leave this place with your backs to those who do not share your views, you will have failed to take advantage of one of Harvard’s greatest strengths — the diversity and dynamism of our community,” he said.

Students having photo taken.

Class of 2025 processin.

Trey Sullivan (from left), Logan Kelly, Kimani Panthier, and Travis Johnson, all from the Class of 2024, had a commemorative photo taken in the Yard on Tuesday morning. Later in the day, the Class of 2025 Convocation began with a procession that included Houses.

Photos by Stephanie Mitchell and Rose Lincoln/Harvard Staff Photographers

Other University officials who spoke at the events remarked how thrilled they were to welcome back students. Rakesh Khurana, Danoff Dean of Harvard College, urged those in attendance to “embrace the magic of being here, together.” The Rev. Matthew Ichihashi Potts, M.Div. ’08, Ph.D. ’13, Plummer Professor of Christian Morals at Harvard Divinity School, Pusey Minister in the Memorial Church, asked everybody to be “thankful that we are here, that we made it” and to remember those whose help was crucial to arrive at this moment.

Sophomores Ahmed Alsheikh and Onyeka Agwu were excited to attend Convocation after a year of limited interaction with classmates and professors.

“I didn’t really get to experience freshman year or life at Harvard last year,” said Agwu, who lives in Pforzheimer House. “Seeing my classmates is really nice and fun.”

Danoff Dean of Harvard College Rakesh Khurana (left) and Vanessa Liu, president of theHarvard Alumni Association, give the Class of 2025 an enthusiastic welcome.

Danoff Dean of Harvard College Rakesh Khurana (left) and Vanessa Liu, president of the Harvard Alumni Association, offered the Class of 2025 an enthusiastic welcome.

Rose Lincoln/Harvard Staff Photographer

Alsheikh shared the sentiment. “It’s a dream come true,” he said. “It’s a rite of passage for Harvard students and one of the few times where we’ll have a class-wide gathering. It’s wonderful to be gathered with my class and have this as a celebration.”

Bacow ended the afternoon event with a story about connection.

“This past weekend I gave a toast at the wedding of the daughter of one of my closest friends from college,” he said. “We met 50 years ago — about 150 steps from here — in a class in Emerson Hall. I was best man at his wedding. My wish for each of you is that during the next four years you will meet classmates who will become your closest friends for life. They are here right now in this gathering. Your job is to go find them.”