Campus compass: the Matriculation Book

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Michelle Liu

Campus Compass is a feature column that dives into the history and significance behind the places and objects that have made Harker what it is today. This edition of Campus Compass takes a look at the history of the Matriculation book and oath.

by Isha Moorjani and Sally Zhu

Since 1998, crowds of students each year have signed the Matriculation Book on their first day of high school to start their legacy as a true Harker student. Today, the book is proudly displayed in Dobbins Hall, with multitudes of names buried inside its leafy pages. The diversity of student signatures throughout the years reflects the uniqueness of each Harker student that has passed through the school. 

First developed by former Head of School Diana Nichols in 1998, the year of the first matriculation ceremony for Harker’s earliest graduating class, the signing of the book has since become an integral part of Harker tradition.

“I like how it gets everybody on the same page, in terms of the Harker way,” said Catherine Snider, the first music teacher at the upper school and now the Communications Manager at the Office of Communication. “You’re entering this cool community where you’re going to learn and grow together, and [we say] that out loud together on the first day so that we all remember that. I think that’s really nice; I love it.”

Signing the Matriculation Book is a tradition that each Harker student completes to honor the Matriculation Oath, which is a symbol and reminder of Harker’s morals. Just as the ceremony welcomes incoming students to the school, the recitation of the oath introduces them to the enriching qualities that they will develop during their years at Harker and will continue to cherish throughout their lives. 

“I understand that fellowship within The Harker School community comes with enormous opportunities and responsibilities,” the Matriculation Oath states, with only three words modified from its original form. “I agree to follow a healthy lifestyle and contribute to the best of my ability to the general welfare of the Harker community, whether at Harker or else where, whether during my days here or afterward.”

The first Matriculation was held in 1998 at Villa Montalvo in Saratoga, matriculating 99 incoming freshmen; in 2019, the incoming Class of 2023 had 206. Ms. Snider and Ms. Lang-Ree played pre-recorded versions of college fight songs that day to amp up the crowd. (Michelle Liu / Photos from 1998 Yearbook)

The matriculation ceremony and oath are reminders of the unity and values of our school. The oath reflects Harker’s Mission Statement: both not only mention learning, but also mention integrity, respect and accountability, key aspects of the school community. From participating in spirit events to carrying a positive attitude around the campus to continually learning in and out of the classroom, the students’ exposure to what Harker means on the first day of school sticks with them throughout various decisions and experiences they have. 

“As a very impressionable, new-to-Harker freshman, all the formalities you had to go through during the ceremony [were pretty daunting], but when we got around to actually signing the book and signing the piece of paper, that was when it truly cemented that I was at The Harker School and I was part of the institution,” Nicholas Yi (12) said. 

The tradition of the Matriculation Book has reinforced the expectations and responsibilities of each member of The Harker School. The pages in Dobbins Hall reflect the school’s extensive history from when it began decades ago, with each student having a place in the book and in the school. The line of new freshman students leaving their mark every matriculation day has been a cherished tradition since Harker’s opening, and it will surely be for many years to come.