Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Wesleyan President Michael Roth ’78 announced that Wesleyan will delay its 188th Commencement Ceremony, originally scheduled for May 24, 2020. Wesleyan’s reunion gatherings, typically held during the same weekend, will be celebrated in alternate formats.
“Although I’d been delaying this decision in hopes that we might still have an opportunity to gather together in late May, I’m writing now to let you know that we will have to find another time and place to celebrate the 2020 graduation. There is so much uncertainty about what the next few months will hold, and we don’t think it is responsible to plan to bring a large group together on Andrus Field in May,” Roth wrote in an all-campus email on April 2.
“I know this will be greatly disappointing for many, particularly for graduate students, seniors and their families, who were looking forward to the Commencement ceremony this spring. I do expect the Board of Trustees to vote (remotely) to award degrees at its May meeting. For official purposes, the University will graduate all those who qualify, and we will find a way to mark that event in some festive (if still virtual) way at that time. We will be writing again soon with our plans in that regard. Please know that we have every intention to bring people together in-person at some point in the future to celebrate this year’s graduates. We are reaching out to seniors to ask for their input in designing meaningful alternatives. Similarly, our colleagues in Advancement will work with the reunion committees to seek input regarding reunion celebrations. When this pandemic recedes, there will be plenty to celebrate together. Please stay safe, and take care of one another. I look forward to celebrating these important milestones with you in the future.”
Like President Roth, Frantz Williams ’99, vice president for advancement, hoped that the trajectory of the pandemic might be such that reunions could happen. But under current conditions, the University decided that gathering a large group of alumni, guests, students, faculty and staff in May would pose too large a risk to the health and safety of the community and beyond.
“We are keenly aware that many classes have been actively preparing for and anticipating their reunions and can assure you that we are working on alternate plans for in-person celebrations at a later date,” Williams wrote. “In the meantime, some classes have already been taking advantage of technology to gather remotely, and this spring Wesleyan will encourage and support more of these gatherings. In addition, we will find other new ways to come together at a time when we are physically separated but eager for connection.”
Wesleyan staff are currently reviewing a variety of options for the postponed ceremonies, and actively seeking input from both students and alumni on their preferences and recommendations for both. The University expects to finalize these plans in the coming weeks and in accordance with official local, state, federal and health officials’ guidance about the pandemic’s trajectory, and will be in touch with the Wesleyan community as soon as possible with updates.