Updated April 20, 2020
Dear Members of the Undergraduate Class of 2020,
I had announced to you in March that the May 2020 Commencement would be postponed. At that time there was considerable uncertainty about the trajectory and duration of the pandemic. The information we had then dictated that it would not be prudent to host the undergraduate Commencement on May 16. As we now know, the decision to postpone was a good one.
I know how much Commencement and the events leading up to it mean to you, your families, your professors, to all staff of the University—and to me personally. This would have been my 24th Commencement and my last. Watching you come across the stage is a moment I would have cherished. I have shaken the hand, embraced, and congratulated one half of the 48,000 alumni of the University in the last 100 years. Graduating with you is very special for me.
In a letter to you earlier this month, I indicated that I had appointed a Commencement Work Group to determine next steps. The Group, comprised of a broad array of students, faculty, and staff representing all areas of the University, considered a number of options with regard to all undergraduate and graduate students in each of the five colleges of the University. I am a member of the Group and saw firsthand how thoroughly the matters of Commencement were treated. The Group solicited your thoughts through a survey on how to best honor and recognize you. Over 400 of you responded to the survey, and I thank you for your thoughtful input.
Given the uncertain conditions that the COVID-19 pandemic continues to present, the Commencement Work Group concluded that it is impractical to identify a specific date on which to host Commencement. We do not want to create yet one more disappointment for you and your families. We are not in a position as responsible members of our community concerned with your health and that of our community to state a definite date for the postponed Commencement. Also important, in order to avoid additional disappointment by projecting a future date that could potentially require further rescheduling, we have decided that we will plan a celebration when it is safe to do so, and provide you sufficient advance notice on the precise date so that you will be able to plan accordingly.
We will need to approach the celebration in stages. Because you will need your degrees certified in May for employment and further studies, I will confer on you your degrees in May. This will be captured on video. The University will then mail you your diplomas to your home address in June.
Uncertainty reigns, and I am sorry that I cannot give you a definite date on which we will celebrate your graduation. In times like these we yearn for community. Our community and spirit at Western New England are strong. We are adapting and we will soon reunite. Our spirit is deep-rooted. It is the Western New England way. Although we would all have preferred a more joyful way to begin our second century as a University, we will, as we so consistently did in our first hundred years since 1919—we will focus on the matters at hand; we will resolve and adapt; and we will be guided by the light of our bright future. Congratulations, graduates! I love, admire, and respect you for thousands of different magnificent reasons!
President Anthony S. Caprio