For the Class of 2020, graduation was delivered through videos, written messages, Zoom meetings, and social media filters.

The speeches, messages, and ceremonial readings were made available at 12:00 p.m. EST on May 15, on a website created for virtual commencement. 

UR President Sarah Mangelsdorf, United States Senator of New York Chuck Schumer, and New York Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul each put out a video dedicated to the class of 2020.

Mangelsdorf’s message emphasized the endurance of the graduating class in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“This may not be the commencement you hoped for,” Mangelsdorf said. “But you are as well prepared for life’s challenges as any class we have ever graduated.”

Hochul’s theme was similar. 

“Through it all — missing the final days with friends and the celebration of graduation — you endured,” she said. “It is that endurance, resiliency, and toughness coupled with a compassion and a newfound appreciation for people of all walks of life, […] all that has built a foundation for your character that will serve you for as long as you live.”

Schumer’s remarks also discussed COVID-19, and at one point called for a “virtual round of applause” for essential workers.

“Our society will overcome this pandemic, and so will you,” he said. “And when the worst is over, we’ll need your help to rebuild our country even stronger than it was before.”

Individual departments also held their own online virtual ceremonies. Some, like the Art and Art History Department, featured professor appraisals of each individual graduating senior in the department. Others, like the Department of History, opted for remarks addressing all department seniors. The Hajim School of Engineering and Applied Sciences’ page included a schedule of live celebrations for different departments within the school. 

For everyone in the College of Arts, Sciences, and Engineering, a video including messages from Dean of the College of AS&E Jeffrey Runner, Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences Gloria Culver, and 2020 Class Council President Rachel Goodman was released. The video concluded with a rendition of “The Genesee.”

Goodman’s speech mainly reflected on the class’ experiences — dorm rivalries, the arrival of Mangelsdorf, Quad Fox — but ended on a hopeful note about an in-person celebration. 

“I look forward to a time in the future when we can all return to campus, walk under the clock tower, and celebrate this accomplishment together at our beloved college home beside the Genesee,” she said. 

Correction 5/24/20: An earlier version of this article said that Runner was the Dean of Students for AS&E. Actually, he is the Dean of the College of AS&E.

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