The Harvard Alumni Association (HAA) announced that Arne Duncan ’86 has been elected by his classmates to be this year’s chief marshal for Commencement. Selected from the ranks of the 25th reunion class, the chief marshal greets classes as they process into Harvard Yard, presides over the chief marshal’s spread, and selects “marshal’s aids” to help with various Commencement duties as part of the HAA’s Committee for the Happy Observance of Commencement (“The Happy Committee”). With a history dating back to 1899, the important post of chief marshal has been held by many notable alumni including Franklin Delano Roosevelt 1904, Henry Cabot Lodge ’24, and Linda Greenhouse ’68.“It is an honor to be chief marshal for the 2011 Harvard Commencement,” Duncan said. “President Obama has challenged America’s young adults to lead the world in college completion by the end of the decade. At Harvard today and at thousands of institutions of higher education this spring, young men and women are celebrating their work toward helping America reach that goal and begin their roles as future leaders of this country.”Duncan has been active in Harvard affairs since graduating. Along with working on the HAA’s Schools and Scholarships Committee as an alumni interviewer, he has served on the Board of Overseers for Harvard College and on the visiting committee to the University’s Graduate School of Education.Duncan, who is currently the U.S. secretary of education, recently received Harvard’s Phillips Brooks House Association’s Robert Coles Call of Service Award and has been honored by the Civic Federation of Chicago and the Anti-Defamation League. Prior to his tenure in Washington, Duncan was CEO of Chicago Public Schools, serving from June 2001 through December 2008, thus becoming the nation’s longest-serving big city education superintendent. Before serving as Chicago superintendent, Duncan led a nonprofit foundation, the Ariel Education Initiative, that helped fund college for a class of inner-city children under the I Have a Dream program. In 2006, the City Club of Chicago named him Citizen of the Year.“We are very pleased that Arne will be leading the alumni at Commencement,” said HAA President Robert “Bob” Bowie Jr. ’73. “He’ll be a wonderful marshal and will surely help make this year’s Commencement a great day.”Harvard’s 360th Commencement will be held on May 26. To attend the alumni spread luncheon and the annual meeting of the HAA in Harvard Yard.
How has the absence of fans impacted drivers?After the Real Heroes 400, several drivers talked about it being weird to mentally prepare for a race without the energy of screaming fans.In his conversation with Sporting News on Tuesday, Matt DiBenedetto said the silence following the national anthem was noticeable.Still, once races begin, the difference between fans and no fans is negligible for competitors. NASCAR came back this past weekend without fans, running the Real Heroes 400 on Sunday at an empty Darlington Raceway.The Toyota 500, planned for the same track Wednesday, will also happen sans crowd noise or typical race day festivities. So, when does the sport expect to allow its stands to be filled again? It’s a complex question given the fluid circumstances of the coronavirus pandemic, and one NASCAR itself doesn’t have a clear answer for at the moment.MORE: What the return to racing has been like for driversGeneral timeframes by location for large gatherings are being announced sporadically around the U.S.Here’s what we know right now:When can fans return to NASCAR races?While full-scale large public gatherings seem far off in most U.S. places, the outdoor nature of tracks works in NASCAR’s favor. Studies have suggested COVID-19 is less communicable in open-air settings.Speedway Motorsports CEO Marcus Smith spoke with Fox Sports’ Bob Pockrass as part of a feature story about how the rest of the year for the sport might play out. Smith said there must be intermediary steps for states before race gatherings are discussed, such as restaurants and bars being reopened.“I’m optimistic about getting back to live crowds,” Smith told Pockrass. “We’re seeing slow steps towards that right now. … There’s a plan, a path forward to particularly outdoor events. Lots of parks are opening up, and that is a step in the right direction.”Those steps are being taken at very different paces. A track like Sonoma Raceway, located in Northern California, could be less likely to reopen with fans than a venue such as Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama, where social distancing measures have already been significantly relaxed.Thirty-four U.S. states have announced full reopening plans so far, according to a map by The New York Times. NASCAR hotbeds such as Florida, Alabama, North Carolina and Indiana are among those areas.Officials have generally been positive in their view of NASCAR getting fans back across the board sometime in 2020, even if attendance is limited at first. That said, it seems likely it will play things cautiously.”We’ve not heard a ‘No way’ for the rest of the year,” NASCAR executive vice president Steve O’Donnell said last week about his conversations with state governments.