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Earlier this month, we had (as I may have mentioned once or twice) a huge, complicated work event, which took up nearly all my time, energy and mental capacity for the first half of September.

We’d been prepping for months, but the days leading up to the event were packed with last-minute details. I worked late four evenings in a row (something I rarely do) and by the time the event was over, my colleagues and I were all so tired we could barely move.

Everything went off wonderfully – we had more than 1000 alumni, students and friends on campus for a day of speeches, panel discussions and fun events, including a performance by Yo-Yo Ma and a block party that took up the whole street.

We are all congratulating each other on a job well done. And while I am so pleased that the big pieces of the day fell into place so smoothly, I want to remember the stuff around the edges.

From before the event:

  • I want to remember the laughter as we spent two days sorting tickets and rearranging name badges, checking names off half a dozen lists and blasting Pandora Radio (first ’80s hair bands, then NSYNC, then Norah Jones) in the background.
  • I want to remember the pizza we ordered one night, mouthwateringly hot and cheesy, eaten standing up in the office, with mini candy bars and tired smiles.
  • I want to remember the joy a box of Insomnia Cookies caused when I carried them into the office on Wednesday.
  • I want to remember the craziness of five Staples runs in two days, carrying (more) nametags and Scotch tape and other last-minute necessities through Harvard Square.
  • I want to remember (cheesy though it sounds) the camaraderie and teamwork, the deep and broad sense that we were all in this together.

And from the day itself:

  • I want to remember walking up to Appian Way at 8 a.m., an hour before I usually get to work, to find the registration table already buzzing and my colleagues dressed up and raring to go.
  • I want to remember the kind helpfulness of every single person who worked the event, no matter their office or role.
  • I want to remember my colleagues all wearing walkie-talkies, looking so Secret Service with their discreet earpieces.
  • I want to remember the eight-day-old baby who was our youngest attendee, snug in a sling against his mama’s chest (she’s one of our doctoral students). I want to remember the joy of her fellow students as they met her son for the first time.
  • I want to remember the riotous applause, not only for U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Harvard president Drew Gilpin Faust, but for the local kids who introduced them both.
  • I want to remember the intro for President Faust, given by Mayara, age 11: “If Harvard were a band, she would be its rock star. She’s cool like jazz and classy like classical.” Best intro ever.
  • I want to remember the crowds flooding into the morning breakout sessions, so that we needed to grab extra chairs and squeeze people in at the back (standing room only!).
  • I want to remember Monica from the dean’s office making me a welcome cup of Earl Grey, as I collapsed on a bench in the hallway during a rare lull in the day’s activities.
  • I want to remember the smiles on the faces of our doctoral students as they got to meet the donors who are making it possible for them to be here.
  • I want to remember Yo-Yo Ma and his fellow musicians, bringing down the house in a truly inspired jam session.
  • I want to remember the enthusiasm of every student I spoke to, all of them so thrilled that this day happened while they were on campus, elated to be a part of it.
  • I want to remember the convivial crowds at the block party, munching on fish tacos and fruit cobbler and sipping cold drinks, shivering in our jackets but so glad to be here, together, celebrating a place we all love and a mission we all believe in.

I didn’t take many photos that day – I was too busy running around like a crazy person, directing traffic and helping out wherever I was needed. But these are the details I wanted to capture. I want to remember this day.

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