June 4, 2020

93rd Annual Commencement: A Virtual Celebration of the Class of 2020

THE FACES OF VIRTUAL COMMENCEMENT: Zoom enabled this year's graduates to meet with their classmates and deans in real-time after the virtual celebration on May 30. Pictured here are members of the Drucker School of Management, including Dean Darroch (near center).

CGU celebrated the achievements of the Class of 2020 on May 30 with a special virtual celebration followed by a series of live Zoom sessions to honor this season’s graduates and newest members of the CGU alumni family.

The virtual celebration is available online for viewing for the next six months. Watch here.

Since mid-March, high schools and universities across the nation have been scrambling to find a way to celebrate graduation without an in-person ceremony because of state-ordered quarantines in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“What if you ran a marathon and nobody was there at the finish line to cheer for you?”
–CGU President Len Jessup

Each year some 4.5 million students receive higher education degrees across the nation. While some schools opted to cancel commencement entirely this season and wait until an in-person ceremony can be held, it was important to do something for CGU’s graduates, explained President Len Jessup in his welcome remarks.

“What if you ran a marathon and nobody was there at the finish line to cheer for you?” Jessup said. “This won’t necessarily take the place of an in-person event … but we wanted to do this to recognize that [your graduation] now is an important milestone, even more important than us being quarantined here for the last couple of months.”

CGU conferred degrees on some 450 master’s and doctoral candidates. Along with Jessup’s and other recorded remarks, a set of slides with each recipient’s name and degree was also played. About 250 graduates also supplied photos and personal messages to family members as a part of this slideshow.

In addition to the online presentation, graduates received a special “swag box” in the mail including a copy of this year’s commencement program, a 2020 tassel, and other items to commemorate their achievements.

An Ending and a Beginning

This year’s graduating class is a diverse and distinguished group, noted Provost Patricia Easton in her remarks, ranging from first-generation students and veterans to working parents and international students.

“This moment marks an ending for you at Claremont Graduate University, but it also marks a beginning,” she told the graduates. Not only did each change from a “graduate student” to “an official degree-carrying member” in their fields, they now join “an alumni community that is 23,000 strong. Congratulations on this incredible achievement, and it’s wonderful to be here to celebrate it with you.”

Student speaker Carrie Herr, who was receiving her PMBA degree that day, commended her fellow graduates for persevering as the world faces difficult circumstances

“You are the one that had to wake up every morning, sacrifice your personal time, go to class, and finish strong,” she said. “Well done.”

CROSSING THE FINISH LINE: Student speaker Carrie Herr congratulated her fellow graduates for their determination to finish.

Zoom to the Rescue

The online commencement presentation was followed by a series of Zoom receptions hosted by each of the university’s schools and divisions.

The receptions gave graduates a chance to visit in real-time with their deans, faculty members, and fellow graduates.

Newly-minted alumna Leslie Bienenfeld, who, even before the pandemic struck, was accustomed to study online as a student in CGU’s online degree programs, described how pleased she was with the experience of finishing her online master’s program in Information Systems & Technology.

For Shuan He, who completed a doctorate in mathematics as a member of the Institute of Mathematical Sciences, tuning in to the reception was slightly challenging. He told his colleagues during the reception that because of the time difference—15 hours—he had to stay up all night in his home in Beijing to make sure he wouldn’t miss it.