Class of 2020 to return for in-person commencement ceremony

According to the College, around 2,500 graduates and guests will attend the event, which will also be livestreamed.

by Emily Fagell | 8/5/22 5:10am

by Julia Levine / The Dartmouth

This weekend, members of the Class of 2020 will return to campus for a belated commencement ceremony, allowing them an in-person opportunity to celebrate after graduating virtually two years ago. The event was initially rescheduled to June 2021, but the College postponed festivities again due to COVID-19 concerns, according to vice president for alumni relations Cheryl Bascomb ’82.

Approximately 2,500 graduates and their guests will attend the event, according to Bascomb. She said these numbers are “smaller than would be typical” — as some students have conflicts or have otherwise moved on  — but are consistent with ceremonies at other institutions. According to the Class of 2020 commencement webpage, the ceremony will also be live-streamed for those who cannot attend in-person.

According to Bascomb and the webpage, the weekend will feature traditional elements such as a procession, music and regalia for the ceremony. Associate director of alumni engagement Briana Stein said the planners also tried to incorporate components of a typical senior week, including tours of the Hood Museum and Baker Tower; a reception for graduates and their guests; opportunities to gather as Greek houses, athletic teams, senior societies and other identity groups and a candlelight ceremony for the 2020 alumni. 

“I’m excited to see the hugs,” Stein said. “... I know a lot of the class members from when I was working with them as students, … and I just know how excited they are to see each other because this will be the first time a lot of them have been able to see each other since a really interrupted moment.”

College President Phil Hanlon will begin the ceremony with opening remarks, with Provost David Kotz emceeing as in a typical commencement, Bascomb said. Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Geeta Anand ’89 will deliver the keynote address.

“I accepted the invitation to speak at the celebration because I feel a deep connection to Dartmouth where I had really significant experiences and met incredibly inspiring people who changed my life,” Anand wrote in an emailed statement. “I am going to share a little about my life’s journey and what I have learned and some advice on how to find joy and meaning in this strange, scary, but also incredibly awesome world.”

Many members of the Class of 2020 reported excitement for the weekend, despite two years of delays and some initial feelings of frustration.

“For a while, I think I actually felt like this was a hassle,” Max Farrens ’20 said. “I’ve moved on with my life. I’m trying to pretend I’m a pseudo-adult, and … to fly from the west coast [to the] east coast [is] expensive. They were going to charge us for the dorm. And I was like, ‘Oh, it’s so annoying.’ But now that I literally just touched down in Boston, I’m very excited.”

Farrens said that many classmates are treating the weekend as a “practice reunion” rather than as a graduation, adding that he is not “really excited at all about the ceremony itself.” Rather, Farrens said he looks forward to reuniting with classmates and revisiting classic locations in the Upper Valley — such as Mink Brook, White River Junction and Stinson’s.

Hannah Marr ’20 also said she is excited about the reunion aspects of the weekend, adding that she plans to go camping on Saturday night and hopes to visit a diner and go on a hike.

“I don’t have a ton of plans … except to see everybody and just let things happen how they happen,” she said. 

Henry Baldwin ’20, Th ’21 — who said he is “ridiculously excited” for the weekend — said he thinks the two-year delay could turn the event into “a happy, not sad time,” unlike a typical commencement.

“It’s funny,” he said. “It’s like a mini reunion … because everyone’s going to be pretty happy. It’s not like senior week where everyone is depressingly sad. Once everyone goes home, it's like, ‘Oh, college is over.’ This is like everyone coming back just for an incredible time.”

All three alumni said they are staying in College dorms for at least one night. While Baldwin said attendees were initially asked to pay for housing, he said an anonymous donor ultimately “covered it all,” making the stay in dorms free of cost. 

“They did a good job of making sure if anyone wanted housing, they could have it,” he said. “It didn’t seem like people were scrambling.”

Stein explained that the planners surveyed the Class of 2020 and “utilized all of that data to really find things that were important to them — including [offering] as much housing as we could provide.” 

While commencement ceremonies are typically planned by the Student Affairs office, Stein said the Alumni Relations office became involved to better represent the Class of 2020 — who are now alumni, rather than graduating students.

“President Hanlon really gave us the directive to include and involve the Class of 2020 as much as we possibly could because it is their ceremony,” Stein said. “We wanted to make sure that as alumni, they would still have that opportunity to provide that kind of input as a class.”

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