Lehigh University held its first ever virtual commencement ceremony to honor the class of 2020 on May 17.
The ceremony involved the four college deans conferring degrees to graduates, a musical performance by the a cappella group the Melismatics and photo slideshows.
While everyone was hoping to celebrate the joyous occasion at Goodman Stadium, President John Simon, the four college deans and many professors expressed their gratitude and appreciation to the graduating class during this unusual circumstance. Simon announced March 31 that Lehigh’s in-person commencement ceremony, originally scheduled for May 18, would need to be rescheduled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“You came to Lehigh with high aspirations,” Simon said. “You should be tremendously proud of all you have accomplished. Your time with us may have ended in the midst of disruption and uncertainty, but it was not defined by it. You received one of the best educational experiences in the United States.”
College of Arts and Science Dean Robert Flowers, along with College of Business Dean Georgette Chapman Phillips, College of Education Dean William Gaudelli and the Dean of the P.C. Rossin College of Engineering Stephen DeWeerth all presented degrees for graduates in their respective colleges.
DeWeerth said his students and all of the graduates will come out of this pandemic as stronger people.
“We are all living through one of those grand challenges presently,” DeWeerth said. “I firmly believe that through this experience, you will emerge as…. even more equipped to address the challenges and opportunities ahead of you.”
Professors from different colleges, athletic coaches and other Lehigh members congratulated the graduates on all of their accomplishments.
“Congratulations to our graduates in 2020,” said men’s basketball coach Brett Reed. “We’re really proud of you, your perseverance, your creativity, dealing with a difficult time, but also enjoying your Lehigh experience, and everything that you’ve put into it. Enjoy the rewards of all your hard work, and we wish you all the best as you move forward into your future careers.”
Kashi Johnson, ‘93, a professor of theatre, was another one of the many Lehigh members who offered messages of congratulations in the virtual ceremony.
“Can’t wait to celebrate with you in person,” Johnson said. “Until then, know that you have nothing but our praise and celebration. We are Lehigh strong together, and you did it.”
The ceremony was full of photos of Lehigh seniors with their friends on campus, at sports games and enjoying campus events as a way to highlight the Lehigh experience for the class of 2020.
#LehighGrad congrats girls! pic.twitter.com/23bLeupAeU
— Glenn (@Gmoneyvites) May 17, 2020
Couldn’t be more proud of our Class of 2020 on this, @LehighU Virtual Graduation Celebration Day. Be sure to reply with your well wishes and words of congratulations to Jordan, Ed, Jack and David (we’ll be sure to retweet them!) #LehighGrad ?? pic.twitter.com/FFcn3qNtll
— Lehigh M. Basketball (@LehighMBB) May 17, 2020
Commencement concluded with a tribute to the graduating class with the playing of the Lehigh Alma Mater in the background and a final congratulations from Simon.
“Class of 2020, my hearty congratulations,” Simon said. “You are now part of the 85,000-plus Lehigh University alumni network, and we are proud to welcome you. We look forward to hearing about all of your accomplishments in the years to come… I look forward to when we can all be together in person, and you can watch each other move your tassels to the left, as so many Lehigh alumni before you have done.”
Virtual commencement was a travesty. I saw other institutions like Fordham do a much more professional job. The least the administration could do would be to put on regalia to make this seem at all a formal and special occasion. Yes we are in quarantine but other schools at least had that attention to detail. Furthermore, I think the stock footage of orientation was a slap in the face. Resources and time should have been spent on honoring each graduating individual and their degree acquired rather than just random photos and videos of first year students. It would have been great to scroll through to hear my child’s name read out loud for my family. This was very poorly done.