Class of 2020 Graduates Enjoy Belated Celebration

Their Commencement happened virtually due to the pandemic. This weekend, they gathered for a recognition ceremony, gala and brunch.

By: Meghan Kita  Monday, October 11, 2021 00:13 PM

News Image
A member of the Class of 2020 celebrates at the end of the graduate recognition ceremony. Photo by Marco Calderon

On Saturday, October 9, about 200 members of the Class of 2020 gathered in Memorial Hall to, at long last, celebrate their graduation in person with friends and family. Most came in the caps and gowns they had ordered but never got to wear, at least not in public. Everyone, graduates and guests, wore masks. Provost Laura Furge, who had not yet joined the College when these alumni were students, read each alum’s name as they walked across the stage and posed for a photo with College President Kathleen Harring. After Furge announced the final name, the audience stood to cheer the graduates, an ovation that lasted more than a minute.

“The applause filled Memorial Hall and each and every person there was on their feet,” says Madison Kirchofer ’20. “I turned around in my chair and the pride and unity I felt in that moment was unlike anything I’ve ever felt before. I will hold on to that moment forever.” 

The unofficial theme of this graduate recognition ceremony—which took place one year, four months and 22 days after the Class of 2020 was supposed to have its Commencement—was ‘resilience and adversity.’ Speaker Benjamin Miles III ’13, a member of the Alumni Board and the first Weiss Fellow to the Board of Trustees, opened his remarks by acknowledging the momentousness of being physically present with the Class of 2020.

“To be a member of the Class of 2020 implies that you are resilient,” he said later in his speech. “You relied on each other during the height of the pandemic and these same connections will serve you well over the long term. This alumni community belongs to you. Rest assured that there will be many opportunities to make your mark over the years to come.”

Harring, who delivered the closing remarks, described the day’s purpose as “​​to recognize the academic accomplishments of the Class of 2020 and to recapture something that was lost.” She talked about how it would be impossible to separate the class’s celebration from the pandemic that had delayed it, about the uncertainty that the world continues to grapple with and about the way forward.

“I ask that you take a moment to reflect on what you have learned from both your Muhlenberg education and the experience of this past year—a global pandemic, a racial reckoning, a deep political divide and a nation and society pushing forward to begin to find healing and reconciliation. How has it shaped you? How has it changed your expectations? How has it changed your actions? What will you do next?” she said. “Of course, you have begun to answer these questions. You have been able to adapt, to move into the unknown, with trepidation I’m sure, but also, ultimately, with confidence.”

In the evening, after the graduate recognition ceremony, the Class of 2020 was able to celebrate together at a gala held in the Seegers Event Space, a nod to the Senior Ball the pandemic made impossible. The celebration weekend concluded with a celebratory brunch—a la the usual Senior Week champagne brunch—on Sunday morning.

“I truly appreciated Muhlenberg’s administration’s dedication to celebrating the Class of 2020,” says Desiree Bsales ’20. “As a member of the Cardinal Key Society, I watched three classes before me walk and receive their diplomas, so I was very grateful to finally have the opportunity to do so myself. Even though I had not been to campus in nearly 18 months, it was like I never left; arriving back on campus truly felt like coming home.”