UD’s 2020 class finally gets graduation: ‘It means so much more.’

Family of a University of Dayton try to find a glimpse of their student as they enter the arena for graduation ceremonies on Sunday. ED RICHTER/STAFF

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Family of a University of Dayton try to find a glimpse of their student as they enter the arena for graduation ceremonies on Sunday. ED RICHTER/STAFF

University of Dayton will hold commencement this weekend for the class of 2020, whose in-person graduation was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

UD held a virtual commencement in 2020 but promised to hold an in-person commencement later. Last year, UD held separate undergraduate ceremonies with limited seating for the class of 2021. It still wasn’t safe enough to invite the class of 2020 to return for a full-group experience, UD said.

UD said 421 graduates from 2020 and 805 family members and friends will return to campus two years later to celebrate commencement at noon Saturday, May 14 at the Marycrest Amphitheater.

UD students in March 2020 had just left for spring break when the university shut down. At the time, officials expected that students would remain off campus for at least two weeks following spring break and continue their classes virtually. Those two weeks turned into much longer than was predicted.

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December Lee, a medicinal chemistry graduate, will be driving from Columbus to participate in this weekend’s celebration. She said she is excited to reunite with friends and is thrilled her class is getting its long-awaited public recognition of a job well done.

“We didn’t get to say goodbye to each other,” said Lee, who is now in a pharmacy graduate program at The Ohio State University. “We left for spring break and thought we’d be back in three weeks, so it took a while to get over the fact that we weren’t going to have a graduation ceremony.”

The celebration is part of a weekend of events, which will include a welcome reception Friday, May 13, in the Connor Flight Deck at UD Arena, a dean’s open house before the ceremony Saturday morning and a porch party later that afternoon.

“It’s a day we’ve all dreamed of, worried whether it would ever happen and now will never forget,” said UD president Eric F. Spina.

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Students who left more than two years ago said they are happy to be coming back for graduation and looking forward to the reunion.

Gabriella Rice, who majored in international business and minored in Chinese and Asian studies, hated leaving behind the many organizations she was involved in as a UD student, notably the Asian American Association she helped start on campus. Now executive assistant in the office of the CEO at Tectronic Industries in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Rice is eager to return for the event.

“We know it’s not the same as a graduation ceremony in the traditional sense, but I’m looking forward to walking across the stage, seeing my old friends and shaking President Spina’s hand,” Rice said. “It might be just a handshake, but it means so much more.”

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