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One Year Later, Class of 2020 Comes Home for In-Person Commencement

Last spring, the members of the Ursinus Class of 2020 did not have an opportunity to participate in the college’s most revered tradition: commencement. The global COVID-19 pandemic forced them to complete their undergraduate careers by learning remotely, and instead of celebrating on campus with friends and loved ones, they watched remarks and well-wishes on computer screens and mobile devices.

But finally, on Sunday, May 16, 2021, the Class of 2020 came back to campus for the in-person ceremony they deserved.

“When you left here on spring break last March, no one could have predicted that your senior year would be upended the way that it was,” President Brock Blomberg said. “Our usually vibrant campus was quieted, and you were forced to learn remotely while losing out on in-person experiences like athletic competition, performing arts, research, and the clubs and organizations that helped to define your undergraduate experience.”

“We quickly learned what it was like to live virtually,” Blomberg said. “Quite simply, it could never replicate being here, on campus and in Collegeville, surrounded by our friends and mentors. So, it fills me with great pride to celebrate your commencement with you today, in person.”

The ceremony took place on Patterson field in front of a limited number of guests who were masked and physically distanced while a virtual audience tuned in via livestream.

Last year, astronaut Christina Koch and actor Colman Domingo addressed the class virtually, and those remarks were again shared this year on the college’s commencement website. Koch said, “One question I’ve gotten a lot recently is, ‘What can an astronaut teach us about uncertain times? About isolation?’ For me, the answer to that is all about reframing. It’s not about the things you aren’t able to have in the moment, but about the unique silver linings you may never experience again.”

Award-winning author Min Jin Lee, an acclaimed novelist known for her deeply impactful portrayals of immigration, prejudice and self-discovery, virtually addressed the classes of 2020 and 2021 during commencement weekend.

In her remarks, Lee said, “For 15 months … you and I have endured many puzzling trials and challenges brought by the pandemic. This is our extraordinary event that you and I have shared together. And what I can say from my vantage point, and from having considered the four questions that I didn’t have the privilege of learning at Ursinus, but from life itself … is that I know that you Ursinus graduates … are 100 percent prepared for all of the beauty and the challenges ahead. And I want you to know that I’m pleased for you and I am proud of you.”

Lee, the author of Pachinko, was presented with an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters.

“You have learned to adapt to unexpected change,” Blomberg told the class. “You have developed a fundamental, life-altering curiosity and a hunger to take risks and lay the foundation for the world you want to live in. It will continue to be unpredictable, but you’ve proven that you are resilient. Never lose that spark.”

Click here to view a recording of the ceremony.