BY MARI MEGIAS
August 28, 2021
More than 1,200 alumni—a record—attended HKS’s Reunion, which the School held virtually from May 15 to 23. The event featured more than 70 sessions, including a discussion with former HKS deans, class and cohort social gatherings, and a first-ever reception focused on diversity, inclusion, and belonging.
More than 100 alumni volunteered to help plan Reunion, adding activities such as social time, a cooking demonstration, policy discussions, and more. Says Shubha Jayaram MPP 2011, “I really enjoyed reengaging with the HKS community and my classmates on the 10-year planning (still can’t believe it’s been 10 years!).”
Several classes hosted substantive discussions on topics such as climate change, democracy, education, and entrepreneurship. Faculty plenaries featured Jorrit de Jong on strengthening city leadership, Professors Nicholas Burns and Meghan O’Sullivan on geopolitics (a session moderated by Professor Anthony Saich), and Harvard University President Lawrence S. Bacow MPP 1976 PhD 1978—who was celebrating his HKS Reunion—on the future of higher education in a session moderated by Geraldine Acuña-Sunshine MPP 1996, who was also celebrating her Reunion.
In the conversation among current Dean Douglas Elmendorf and former HKS Deans Graham T. Allison, David T. Ellwood, and Joseph S. Nye moderated by Debra Isaacson MPP 2000, the deans reflected on how the state of the world during their deanships affected their visions for HKS. Allison, who became dean in 1977, noted that President Ronald Reagan famously stated in his 1981 inaugural address, “Government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem.” Considered by many to be the founding dean of the modern Kennedy School, Allison was in the midst of trying to build a professional school of government that was “analogous to the schools of business and law and medicine at Harvard. … So a fundamental challenge at the outset was … trying to make the case for government—not for government as the solution but as an essential part of the solution, something without which a society simply couldn’t succeed.”
Ellwood noted that, “when I took over [as dean in 2004], it was a different time. I think there was some greater sense of government’s potential. … I was struck by the idealism, as I’ve always been—everybody came to School because they want to make the world a better place.”
Later in the week, the HKS Alumni Association held its inaugural meeting for all HKS alumni, not just those in a Reunion year. HKS Alumni Board Chair Jen Tutak MPA/2012 highlighted the Board’s accomplishments over the past year; she also announced this year’s recipients of the Alumni Awards.
Meg Gifford MPA 1986 said her entire Reunion exceeded her expectations “in every way. It was wonderful to see classmates—and most asked that similar events continue in the future.”