Virtual commencement celebrates 2020 graduates

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Photo Courtesy of University of Illinois

A person holds a graduation cap in the air at Memorial Stadium.

By Amrita Bhattacharyya

The University’s online commencement ceremony celebrated this year’s 149th graduating class on Saturday. 

Family and graduates tuned in to watch the pre-recorded program on social media platforms YouTube and Facebook. 

The celebration kicked off with Chancellor Robert Jones congratulating students for graduating under extraordinary circumstances. The graduates’ last courses were delivered in alternative ways, their research was put on hold and they were separated by distance from friends and instructors. 

“You have done something that has never been done before,” Jones said. UI President Tim Killeen then conferred degrees. 

“I can’t tell you how disappointed I am that we aren’t celebrating in person today. I also can’t tell you how proud I am of the character you have shown throughout the COVID-19 crisis,” Killeen said. 

Prominent alumni Dick Butkus, Nick Offerman, Deron Williams, Tatyana McFadden and Ang Lee sent in short videos congratulating graduates and welcoming them to the Illinois alumni family.

“Please join us. Find the good work that needs doing. Roll up your sleeves and get to it. Hats off,” Offerman said. 

Jones asked viewers to join as one graduating class to sing “Hail to the Orange.” 

The short 16-minute program ended with more messages of congratulations by prominent alumni. 

“Don’t be a spectator in life. Use your incredible Illinois education and our powerful alumni network to create meaningful change in the world,” Larry Gies, philanthropist and alumnus of the University said. 

Jones told graduates that they will always have a home at Illinois and hopes that the University will be a place graduates visit often. 

“If Champaign-Urbana is out of reach, know that you can draw strength from 3 letters that unite our Illinois community around the world; I-L-L,” Jones said.

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