Wooster Class of 2020 reunites for Commencement celebration

Commencement 2020

The College of Wooster celebrated the Commencement of the Class of 2020, in a ceremony that brought back more than 150 graduates for their traditional walk through the Kauke Arch, walk across the stage, and the chance to gather with friends, faculty, and other members of the College community that many of them had not seen in more than two years. Visit wooster.edu/2020-commencement to view an archived video of the Commencement ceremony held on May 22, 2022 in McGaw Chapel.

President Sarah R. Bolton welcomed the graduates and their families to Wooster’s 150th Commencement Ceremony “part two.” “At a historic moment, after over two years of extraordinary disruption and loss, after a time of so much difficulty and hardship, you might ask how we could celebrate,” she said, noting that the answer is different for everyone. “We celebrate because of you class of 2020, because of who you are, because of the ways you persevere through so much difficulty and through it all both here on campus and after graduating have done so much that’s marvelous.”

Bolton’s acknowledgement of the challenge in capturing the graduates’ experience in the six years since the class started their time at Wooster set the tone for the event as she welcomed members of the class and other speakers to the stage. She noted that when organizers of the event asked the Class of 2020 who they would like to hear from they said, “We want to hear from our community,” rather than an outside speaker.

Speakers for the class selected by their classmates included Emilee René McCubbins ’20, Aubri Paige McKoy ’20, Grace Cora O’Leary ’20, and Maryori Danitza Sosa ’20. They spoke of their time at Wooster, of their memories of their final days on campus in March of 2020, of how they’ve changed, and how far they have come in the time since their time on campus was cut short so unexpectedly. After so much time, as McCubbins put it, “Writing a commencement speech feels impossible, because it is.”

The students found ways to capture what it meant to them to be back at Wooster for the weekend to participate in planting their class tree, walking through the Kauke Arch in honor of their achievements on I.S. Monday, and finally walking across the stage, shaking hands with President Bolton, and accepting a tartan-adorned tootsie roll because they already received their diplomas. But as McKoy noted, their day was “no less special just because it didn’t happen two years ago,” and the value of fulfilling this dream and finding closure “is still worth it.”

Faculty and staff of the College community provided the keynote address, made personal by their close relationships with the class, including Kayla Campbell, program coordinator for the office of the vice president of equity, inclusion, and diversity; Amber Garcia, professor of psychology; Marjorie Shamp, director of campus dining and conference services; and Daniel Bourne, emeritus professor of English who retired at the end of 2020 and whose time at the College also ended differently from what he expected.

Along with their Tootsie Rolls, the class took with them a copy of a poem Bourne shared in his speech called “The Tree That Remains,” in his words, “about evil, about surviving and saying no to bitterness and depression, ultimately, about knowing you have friends…” He reminded the class of the people at Wooster and around them “who still care about you and are rooting for you, cheering you on, and supporting you.”

Finally, the ceremony concluded with the Class of 2020 turning their tassels together in person for the first time. Sunday’s ceremony also featured an invocation led by alumnus Justin Warner ’18, a minister at Grace Presbyterian Church of South Brunswick in New Jersey and closing benediction from alumnus Chadwick Smith ’17, a pastor of youth and community outreach at Grace United Methodist Church of Atlanta, Georgia who recently completed his Master of Divinity at Emory University and traveled to Wooster to be with his fellow alumni for the ceremony.

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