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Plans to recognize and celebrate the Spring 2020 UMD graduates

Dear University of Maryland community,

As I have observed our beautiful but eerily still and empty campus, devoid of the usual bustle and activity, I have been overcome by emotions.

While apart, we have grieved for the illness and the passing of members of our community. Like so many others, I felt awe and appreciation for how our students, faculty, and staff isolated at home, made the transition on the fly to study and work in an online environment, and carried on with resilience and in the spirit of civic responsibility and solidarity. And like all of you, I am saddened that this pandemic has upended the normal rhythms of university life and its cherished traditions. So I want to say again, I'm so sorry for these disruptions in your lives.

While this semester has not turned out how any of us expected, we are still making plans to recognize and celebrate the accomplishments of the graduates of the Spring Class of 2020. It is important to do so, because commencement is an important rite of passage. It marks the end of an academic journey and the start of a new chapter in one's life journey.

For me, it marks my "graduation" as well, though it has taken me ten years to reach this moment. I, too, share the sense of accomplishment and sadness that accompanies the closing of a chapter. This is what makes the Spring 2020 commencement all the more meaningful to me.

Like many students, I was disappointed that the University could not hold an in-person spring commencement ceremony, pursuant to the guidance of the University System of Maryland and state officials. I then asked Provost Mary Ann Rankin to form a group to make recommendations on how to best recognize our Spring 2020 graduates. Her group received more than 500 suggestions from students, and many as well from faculty, staff, and administrators. Thank you to all who submitted comments.

Based on the suggestions received and the advice of this group, I'm writing to share with you the following three-part plan to recognize and celebrate the Spring 2020 graduating class.

(1) Virtual commencement, May 22, 2020
On this day, at 1 PM, the University will host a virtual ceremony. It will be streamed live across multiple platforms. It will include remarks by graduating students and a commencement address by The Hon. Steny Hoyer (class of '63 and former SGA president), the Majority Leader of the U.S. House of Representatives. At this ceremony, I will confer degrees to the graduates. I will also confer honorary doctorates to the first African-American male undergraduate student admitted to UMD in 1951 and to the first African-American female student admitted in 1955 - courageous trailblazers who, over 60 years ago, breached the walls of segregation.

This virtual ceremony will include crowd-sourced photos, videos, and messages posted and submitted by our graduates (seniors receiving their bachelor's degrees and graduate students receiving their post-baccalaureate degrees). I ask that all Spring 2020 graduates reflect on their favorite UMD memories and offer messages of hope for the future, and start sharing them with their fellow Terps using the hashtag #UMDgrad. Your memories, messages, and images will be incorporated in this virtual ceremony.

This is an opportunity for the Spring 2020 graduates to help create the first-ever virtual commencement at UMD, one that is innovative, engaging, and inclusive. I anticipate that parents and friends of our graduates, as well as future generations of Terps, will be inspired and proud when they view it.

The various colleges and schools will also host their own virtual commencement ceremonies on May 22, featuring remarks from the respective Dean and displaying the names of every graduate of that academic unit.

(2) Football game recognition, September 12, 2020
Many Spring 2020 graduates expressed interest in some special recognition during the Fall 2020 football season. With thanks to Director of Athletics Damon Evans, I'm pleased to say that all the Spring 2020 graduates and guests will be offered complimentary tickets to the home game on September 12, 2020. Further details will be forthcoming in the coming months.

(3) Winter commencement, December 2020
The graduates and the honorary degree recipients of Spring 2020 are invited to participate in the Winter (December) 2020 commencement ceremony. To accommodate both Spring 2020 and the Winter 2020 graduates, and all their friends and family members, this ceremony will be held at Xfinity Center on Sunday, December 20, at 1 PM. Members of the Spring 2020 class will walk in together and will be seated together. Additional information will be posted at commencement.umd.edu.

Of course, the football game in September 2020 and the winter commencement in December 2020 will depend on decisions by state officials that the pandemic has abated sufficiently so that schools can be re-opened and large public gatherings can be held safely.

We will also be distributing care packages to all Spring 2020 graduates that include the official commencement program and other items. Undergraduate seniors will all receive a cap and tassel. These packages will be mailed to students' permanent address, so we ask that all graduates verify their permanent address at testudo.umd.edu by Monday, April 27, 2020.

We all look forward to commemorating this upcoming graduating class. And I look forward to standing with them, another proud "graduate" of the Spring Class of 2020 of the University of Maryland.

May you continue to remain safe, be well, and take care of each other.

With heartfelt thanks to everyone,

Wallace D. Loh
President, University of Maryland