By Dale McGarrigle
For The Weekly
A Bangor lawyer was recently honored by his prestigious Ivy League alma mater.
Charles Gilbert, a member of Harvard University’s Class of 1971, was selected to be an alumni marshal at the college’s freshman convocation. Although Harvard is the country’s oldest college, the event on Aug. 31 marked only the school’s second such gathering, the first being last year. This welcoming ceremony marks the only time before the freshman class’ scheduled graduation in May 2014 that the entire class will officially assemble.
Gilbert suspects that he was chosen for the marshal duty because of his work with a local Harvard alumni group that he has led for the past 16 years. He and other alumni, in coordination with the Harvard Office of Admissions, do local interviews with prospective students living in eastern and northern Maine. This year, four of the incoming 1,666 students in Harvard’s Class of 2014, drawn from more than 30,000 applicants, come from eastern and northern Maine.
“Considering that we draw from a population base of less than 400,000, having four students admitted is a great achievement,” Gilbert said.
Gilbert, 61, was glad to get back to his old stomping grounds.
“It was a fun thing,” he recalled. “I was able to do something else in Boston in the morning, so I made a trip of it.”
The hot afternoon started with Gilbert and other alumni marshals meeting with freshmen from Greenough dormitory at the Old Yard and handing out pins emblazoned with Harvard’s Veritas shield, care of the Harvard Alumni Association. They then shepherded the freshmen to Tercentenary Theatre, with the path along the way lined with members of the Crimson Key Society cheering them on and the bells of the Memorial Church announcing their arrival.
Music was a large part of the program, with the Harvard University Band, the Holden Choirs and the Kuumba Singers all performing.
The freshmen, who come from 49 states and 78 foreign countries, then heard from Harvard’s leaders. These included President Drew Faust, who encouraged students to take risks and leave their “comfort zones.”
“Our job is to help make this willingness for risk and invention become second nature to you, so that your idea of success includes some failure, so that you all yourselves to become uncomfortable as you try new things,” Faust said.
Gilbert said the convocation as serving another role: “To impress upon Harvard freshman that they’re becoming part of a large community, not just of their fellow students, but of alumni from many years before. Harvard Yard is one of those places steeped in tradition and history, and Harvard does a great job using all that as a springboard to the present and the future.”