Gillian Reinhard ’20
Correction: Earlier, the article stated that Commencement for the Class of 2020 would occur in May 2021. The email from President Berger-Sweeney indicated that the 2020 Commencement Weekend would happen after the 2020-2021 academic year, meaning the ceremony could potentially take place later than May 2021. See below for a comment from Chief of Staff and Associate Vice President for External Affairs Jason Rojas.
Commencement exercises for the Class of 2020 will be postponed until after the 2020-2021 academic year. According to an email sent to students from President of the College Joanne Berger-Sweeney, COVID-19 complications and international travel restrictions have forced the College to delay the ceremony for a year.
Berger-Sweeney did not specify dates of the ceremonies and events for the Class of 2020, though did indicate that they would happen “after the 2020–21 academic year” and acknowledged that the decision was “disappointing news” to many members of the community.
This decision was made in response to the “environment of uncertainty and the likelihood that social and travel restrictions will be in place in the months ahead,” along with the community responses that the President’s office received. Those responses included over 100 comments from the Class of 2020 voicing support for an in-person ceremony rather than a virtual Commencement.
“Our goal will be to offer you the excitement and customs of a traditional Commencement Weekend in 2021,” said Berger-Sweeney, indicating that there would still be a Phi Beta Kappa Induction Ceremony, a Parents Senior Tribute Gift brick dedication, an Honors Day ceremony, and Post-Commencement Celebrations. Berger-Sweeney indicated that the College will also work to develop strategies to “include graduates who may not be able to return to campus next year.”
The Tripod spoke with Director of College Events Kate McGlew, who indicated that Honors Day awards may not necessarily be announced this year. McGlew did indicate that it is “up to the departments that are giving the award to decide if they want to let students know they won a prize.” Honors Day prizes for the Classes of 2021, 2022, 2023, and 2024 will be given at the ceremony on May 2, 2021, while the Class of 2020’s prizes will “have a separate Honors Day Ceremony when they return to campus for their Commencement Weekend,” added McGlew.
Regarding timing, Chief of Staff and Associate Vice President for External Affairs Jason Rojas told the Tripod: “A number of suggestions have been made to us and we want to consider them all which includes the potential for a rescheduled commencement during some other month. We want to engage other stakeholders in the process.”
The email did not indicate if Honors Day prizes would be announced in advance or how or when graduating seniors could expect their diplomas.
The Tripod spoke with Vice President for Communications and Marketing Angela Schaeffer who declined to comment further beyond the President’s email. Regarding diplomas, however, Schaeffer did indicate that she understands the details are “still being worked out (by the registrar’s office and others).”
In the meantime, Berger-Sweeney indicated that the senior class could look forward to a virtual Baccalaureate ceremony on May 16 featuring the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, the Most Reverend Michael Bruce Curry.
Bishop Curry will receive an honorary degree at the Class of 2020 Commencement, alongside former Trinity Trustee Frank Borges ’74, Cinestudio co-founders James Hanley and Peter McMorris, and the first four women to receive a bachelor’s degree from Trinity: Betty Gallo, Judith Odlum Pomeroy, Roberta Russell, and Professor of Theater and Dance emerita Judy Dworin ’70. Berger-Sweeney indicated that Dworin would also be the College’s Commencement speaker for the Class of 2020.
The 194th Commencement exercises were originally scheduled for May 17. Members of the Class of 2020 and the Board of Trustees received the announcement earlier in the morning, shortly before it was shared with the entire school.
Other schools in Connecticut have responded to the Commencement question differently. At Yale, a committee of students and faculty was formed in late March to examine how and when students would most like to celebrate the conclusion of their college experience. UConn, conversely, will have a virtual commencement on May 9 and an in-person ceremony in early October.
“We will work together, and, in keeping with another beloved Trinity tradition, we will make lemonade from these lemons we’ve been handed, and we will toast you with our deepest appreciation,” Berger-Sweeney concluded.