The sudden impact of the COVID-19 pandemic last spring forced almost all colleges and universities to abandon their commencement plans or run ceremonies virtually. That left the Class of 2020 and their families with no way to celebrate their achievement or a less-than-desirable finale online.
But since last summer, institutions have been creative finding ways to bring them back to campus and honor them. Some conducted small events last fall and even more were held in the winter. Some, like Miami University in Ohio, decided to make those 2020 graduates a part of this year’s commencement festivities.
On Thursday, those graduates finally were given their special day at Yager Stadium. The large, outdoor event allowed students the chance to experience that missed moment, enjoy hugs with classmates and pose for pictures with up to six guests. It was a day that they and leaders at the university won’t forget.
“You have experienced college in a way that no class before has known — and likely, no class will experience again,” Miami President Gregory Crawford told the Class of 2020. “You were here last year for the abrupt transition to remote learning with its chaos and novelty. Despite uncertainty — you have been patient, flexible and triumphant during an unprecedented time. Your unwavering courage kept you on the path that led to this moment, and we admire your perseverance and fortitude.”
The ceremony was highlighted by the powerful words of keynote speaker Carolyn Jefferson-Jenkins, the former president of the League of Women Voters and the first woman of color in that position.
“The Miami experience has empowered you to seek your passion and purpose,” Jefferson-Jenkins said. “It has instilled in you a sense of global responsibility. It has allowed you to succeed and to fail, to deal with the challenges of a global pandemic, remote learning, virtual events, a reckoning with social and racial injustice.”
From today through Sunday, the Class of 2021 and its 4,800 graduates will be honored in eight separate ceremonies with COVID-19 protocols such as masking and social distancing still in place. One of those graduating on Saturday will be Sam Baird, a communication design major from the Class of 2021. Her sister, Hannah, who studied education, was honored with 2020 grads.
Hannah told the university’s news service having ceremonies on the same weekend, “absolutely makes it more special. As a family, we can celebrate together, instead of apart.”
Here is a look at some of the amazing images from the 2020 Class commencement: