Notre Dame confers degrees on Class of 2020

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Commemorative stole sent to graduates in the Class of 2020, with the words: "Still Notre Dame, Even When Apart". Photo by Matt Cashore/University of Notre Dame.

Commemorative stole sent to graduates in the Class of 2020, with the words: "Still Notre Dame, Even When Apart". Photo by Matt Cashore/University of Notre Dame.

Encouraging graduates of the Class of 2020 to seize the challenges of this moment in time to be “a force for good,” University of Notre Dame President Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., conferred degrees on undergraduate and graduate students around the world in the University’s first-ever virtual ceremony. He was joined by Thomas G. Burish, the Charles and Jill Fischer Provost, and Chairman of the Board of Trustees John J. Brennan for the livestreamed event from the Rex and Alice A. Martin Media Center studio in Corbett Family Hall.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Notre Dame postponed the 175th University Commencement Ceremony until Memorial Day weekend of May 2021. 

Burish welcomed members of the Class of 2020, their family and friends and members of the Notre Dame community to the historic online degree conferral ceremony.

“Our world has changed a great deal these past few months,” Burish said. “The coronavirus has taken a tremendous toll on individuals, families and livelihoods across our nation and around the world. Among the many sad consequences of the pandemic is that it prevents us from celebrating this momentous day with you in person. While we are all disappointed that your degrees are being conferred virtually rather than in person, our pride in you and what you have accomplished, and what you have overcome, and our hopes and prayers for what you will accomplish and will become in the years ahead, could not be greater.”

Brennan delivered the invocation, acknowledging the many gifts of the Class of 2020 and asking for God’s blessing on the graduates and their loved ones. He also remembered Annrose Jerry, a member of the class who passed away in January.

In pre-recorded messages, deans from each of the University’s eight colleges and schools presented the candidates for degrees. In all, Father Jenkins conferred degrees on 2,113 undergraduates, while 460 students received master’s and doctoral degrees from the Graduate School, 406 were awarded master’s degrees from the Mendoza College of Business and 228 students earned degrees from Notre Dame Law School.

Before addressing the graduates, Father Jenkins recognized the distinguished service of Burish, who will be retiring from the University after 15 years of service as provost, and also thanked Michael Lykoudis, the Francis and Kathleen Rooney Dean of the School of Architecture, and Thomas Fuja, interim dean of the College of Engineering, who are both stepping down from their deanships.

In his charge to the graduates, Father Jenkins said, “Class of 2020, your story will include the massive social, economic and public health challenges that face us all. I’m sorry for these hardships, but they are your opportunity. You see, you cannot be the Fighting Irish if you have never had to fight through anything. You have your fight. Seize it.

“My charge to you is this: Make this story, the story you may not have intended to write, a tale of resilience and hope, of friendship and solidarity and of the kind of courage and persistence that conquers despair and disappointment. Make it too a story of generosity and goodness. Whatever your hardships, someone else is suffering much more. Be a sister or brother to them. In your family life, your professional life and your spiritual life, every day of your life, never forget that your charge as a Notre Dame graduate is to be a force for good. As graduates of the class of 2020, you will always have a special place in my heart, for you had to overcome special challenges.”

Father Jenkins closed the ceremony by offering a benediction.

The program concluded with the playing of the alma mater and a scrolling list of each graduate’s name on the screen. In advance of the ceremony, graduates received a commemorative box from the University containing a letter from Father Jenkins, custom graduation stole, Grotto candle and yearbook. An hour-long prelude to the ceremony included nearly 1,000 photos of the graduates submitted by members of the Class of 2020 and their families. Diplomas will be shipped to graduates in mid-June.

The livestreamed ceremony was recorded and can be viewed in its entirety at commencement.nd.edu.