Jennifer Doody writes: One Night. One Harvard. – The Story Behind the Hugely Successful Harvard Masquerade Ball

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

More than 500 members of the Harvard community—including students, alumni, staff and administrators—came together on Friday, December 3, 2010 for the inaugural Harvard Masquerade Ball.

Taking place at the exclusive Harvard Club of Boston, guests donned festive masquerade masks, ranging from the simple to the dazzling.  Attendees dined on sumptuous desserts as they danced into the night, stopping only to enjoy a bevy of performances by various Harvard students, which included tango dancers, a capella singers, and a show-stopping rendition of The Phantom of the Opera’s “Wishing you were somehow here again,” by soprano Allison Shapiro, Harvard Kennedy School alumna and opera singer.

The sold-out event—spearheaded by the Harvard Extension Student Association (HESA), with support by the Harvard Graduate Council (HGC)—received support from student representatives from all 13 Harvard schools.  The event celebrated the diversity of the Harvard community, bringing together current students, alumni, and staff from across Harvard University.  Tickets were in high demand, selling out in a mere two weeks, leaving more than 350 hopefuls on the official wait list for a coveted spot.

The Harvard Masquerade Ball was produced in the spirit of President Drew Faust’s vision of a more unified and less decentralized university. During her Opening Year Dialogue with Charlie Gibson in September 2010, President Faust mentioned that faculty members “chuckle” when asked about breaking down barriers of decentralization that have existed for over 100 year among Harvard schools.

Inspired by President Faust’s ‘one Harvard’ aspiration, Philip Harding, president of the Harvard Extension Student Association (HESA), conceived of the masquerade ball idea early in the 2010 fall semester.  Rallying support from student representatives from all 13 Harvard schools, Harding led the charge to organize the university-wide event.

“The Harvard Masquerade Ball combined a spectacular venue, fantastic entertainment by Harvard student groups, and an incredible response from the Harvard community,” said Harding.  “However, the most exciting aspect was the story behind the event, which was the opportunity to bringing Harvard together for one night.”

Harding wanted to provide an opportunity for students and alumni from all 13 Harvard schools to come together, connect, and establish a rapport.  “If students and alumni from all Harvard schools are given the opportunity to bypass the walls of decentralization and really connect on a social level, amazing things can happen as a result.”  Harding believed that producing a high profile, formal social event would help foster a cross-school dialogue.  “We wanted to create an atmosphere in which the entire Harvard community could come together in one room, to really bring the ‘One Harvard’ idea to fruition,” said Harding.  “We wanted to not only celebrate the diversity in our amazing community, but also build relationships, creating a university that is stronger and more unified,” said Harding.

When Harding met with President Faust one month before the Masquerade Ball and shared the mission behind the event, he noted that she was very interested in the story behind the event and wanted to hear more.  “It seemed to fall right in line with her inclusive-minded goals for the university,” said Harding. “We realize that there are many difficulties to overcoming school decentralization, and some of these changes may take years to impact student life. But this was something we felt we could do to have an immediate impact in creating a Harvard-wide community and bring students from all schools together.”

The event was enhanced by a host of fantastic live performances by a variety of Harvard student groups. “I can’t say enough about the performers, the coordinators and the attendees who made this such a memorable event,” said Harding.  “We had extremely high expectations for the event, and based on attendee feedback, we surpassed those expectations on just about every level.” Event performers included VoiceLab (Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences); the Tango Club (Harvard School of Public Health); the American-Asian Dance Troupe (Harvard College); and opera singer Allison Shapira. Anticipating the attendees’ elaborate costumes and masks, coordinators hired multiple professional photographers to document the event.  Ball guests certainly did not disappoint.

Harding hopes to replicate the inaugural Ball’s success in 2011. “Based on the success of the event, we’re already looking to make it even more spectacular next year,” Harding noted.  “It was an honor to bring our university together for one night. I believe that the cross-campus relationships created that night have the possibility to impact the world,” said Harding.  “We see the Masquerade Ball as one step towards a more unified Harvard community.”

For more information on the Harvard Masquerade Ball, please visit or email the organizing committee at


Jennifer Doody (in the slideshow wearing a black bowler hat with surreal green apple face paint) beautifully authored this posting which appears under my “Brandon Welti” account because Jennifer generously agreed to be my guest and share her writing with us on the Harvard Extension School student blogs. Thank you Jennifer!

And a special thanks to Eve Photography for the lovely photos shown in the slideshow above. To see more Harvard Masquerade event photos visit: Enjoy 😀

One Comment

  1. The Mike Mahoney
    Posted April 4, 2011 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

    Well said Brandon. Thank you for your time, effort and enthusiasm. Thanks to HESA for the event. Most of all thank you for you BW.

%d bloggers like this: