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To: The Wellesley Community
From: President Paula A. Johnson
Re: Update on Commencement and Reunion 2020
Date: April 1, 2020

This week we are excited to welcome students back to classes and return to the familiar rhythms of the semester. And yet, given the ongoing public health crisis, nothing is familiar these days. In the face of this new reality, and with great sadness, I write today to share that Wellesley will not be hosting an in-person commencement or reunion this spring.

While nothing can replace our traditional commencement, this May 31 we will go forward with a virtual ceremony, during which we will confer degrees so that graduates are able to move forward with careers and further academic pursuits. And next year, when we expect this pandemic has passed, we will gather here at Wellesley to celebrate in person with our red class of 2020.

We waited as long as we could to make this very difficult decision, which I shared first with our seniors moments ago. Commencement is both a joyous occasion and the most important ceremony at the College. It is when we come together to celebrate the accomplishments of our remarkable seniors and bring closure to their years at Wellesley. I especially enjoy meeting families and friends and feeling the collective sense of pride and joy. At the event, we also honor our retiring faculty, who have given so much to the College, and we recognize our most outstanding teachers with Pinanski prizes.

This decision is particularly poignant for me because I will always have a special place in my heart for the red class of 2020. We entered Wellesley together, and together we experienced both the joys and the sorrows of these four years. I have cherished seeing this class mature into outstanding young adults, poised to make a difference in a world that desperately needs their talents and passions.

I am also disappointed that we are unable to host reunion weekend. I love watching alumnae return to Wellesley to celebrate old friendships and create new ones, reminding us that the bonds forged here transcend time and place.

This pandemic is testing us in ways we could not have imagined. And each day, I am seeing our community rise to the challenge. The way faculty and students have embraced remote learning, the red class of 2020’s brilliantly improvised “fauxmencement” ceremony, and the ongoing generosity of our alumnae—all of these are acts of resilience. They are proof that Wellesley is much more than a place. At its core, Wellesley is a community—a community of learning, of caring, and of belonging.

In the coming weeks we will be working on the details of this spring’s virtual ceremony. We can’t tell you yet what it will look like—we want to tap the imaginations of our senior class council and our alumnae leaders to make this, and the gatherings that will follow, as meaningful as possible. We will be in touch when we have more information to share.

In 2021, we will come back together to honor our remarkable red class of 2020 in a way that is both a fitting tribute to their achievements and a powerful reminder of the strength of our community.

I sincerely wish good health to you, your families, and your loved ones.