Yale’s Class of 2020 finally had their day in the sun.
Twenty-six months and seemingly a million Zoom calls after they last met on campus, the Class of 20 and some Class of 21 members marched through Old Campus today in their caps and hats. dresses to celebrate their debut with family and friends.
“You are no ordinary group of graduates and this is no ordinary graduation ceremony,” Yale President Peter Salovey said. “We are here to learn from you.”
It was a celebration of two years in the making.
The students in the class of 20 were more than halfway through their senior year – they were on spring break – when public health concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic led Yale to suspend activities on campus. . Classes for the rest of the semester, as well as the finals, have been posted online.
So was the beginning. The spring event went global as graduates, many wearing their caps and gowns at home, took part in an online launch. But Yale promised them that there would come a day when they would return to campus for a proper departure.
And now that day had arrived, with music, balloons, bells and flags.
“My heart is so full to look at you,” University Chaplain Sharon MK Kugler said during a prayer to begin the ceremony.
President Salovey praised the graduates for how they behaved as the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted daily life – and how they acquitted themselves in the two years since.
“You have made sacrifices. You overcame adversity,” Salovey said. “You persevered. This ceremony, delayed by historical and global disruptions, is all the more meaningful and joyful, thanks to your hard work and commitment to the common good.
Salovey noted how rare it is for a college president to make two formal remarks to a graduating class. Then again, he said, no one could have predicted what happened to the Class of 2020.
“You gave up great moments and missed quieter moments,” he said. “But the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic have not defined your time at Yale. Instead, you are remembered for your compassion, strength, and character.
The 2020 festivities actually began the day before, when Yale College Dean Marvin Chun, the Yale Alumni Association, Class 20 officers, and the Class Day Committee officially welcomed the Class of 20 and other returning alumni. with a reception on Beinecke Plaza.
More than 1,200 Yale College Class of 2020 students returned for the ceremony, about 90% of the class. Additionally, several Yale graduate and professional schools have invited graduates of the Class of 2021 to attend.
In total, approximately 10,000 people attended the events, including guests and faculty members.
“My daughter was so happy to see her friends again,” said Kate Zhang of Pasadena, Calif., who spotted a great spot to snap a photo of Sofia Menemenlis ’20, who studied geology and global affairs and was a resident of Timothy. Dwight College.
“I am so happy that all of these students were able to have this ritual and ceremony,” Zhang said.
“I feel great,” said Kweku Djan ’20, a former resident of Davenport College who majored in sociology. He is now in medical school at the University of California, San Francisco. “It’s a little weird, but in a positive way,” he said.
“We are very grateful to be here – filled with gratitude,” said Lisa Greenberg of Morganville, NJ. She and her husband Eliot were on hand to cheer on their daughter Jessica Greenberg, who majored in economics and was a resident of Morse College.
“We weren’t sure this day would come,” said Eliot Greenberg. “We’re so happy the kids are getting this closure.”
The ceremony was also an opportunity to celebrate the 2020 recipients of honorary degrees: computer scientist Michael I. Jordan, who attended the ceremony; immunologist Jim Allison; jurist Jerome Alan Cohen ’51 BA, ’55 JD; civil servant Christiana Figueres; soprano Renée Fleming; composer and musician Herbie Hancock; the late theater designer Ming Cho Lee, who passed away in October 2020; evolutionary geneticist Svante Pääbo; and playwright Paula Vogel.
Meanwhile, members of the Class of 2020 are already making their mark. During her remarks, Salovey took a moment to mention Margaret Kellogg and her work with the Yale team behind the innovative SalivaDirect COVID-19 test, Paul Gross and his development of a device to capture carbon emissions from semis. -trailers, and the work of Christina Pao examining the rise of xenophobia.
“Looking back on Cross Campus, I see a force for progress and positive change,” Salovey said. “I see in you the compassion of the human spirit.”