Graduates from Ithaca College’s Class of 2020 popped bottles of champagne, danced and celebrated with their families and pets over Zoom at virtual commencement ceremonies for each of the five schools.
The ceremonies took place from Aug. 2 to 6 in lieu of an in-person ceremony. The 125th Commencement ceremony was scheduled for May 17 but was postponed until Aug. 2 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. President Shirley M. Collado then announced that the in-person ceremony was canceled June 8. Instead, Alumni Weekend 2021 will take place from June 25 to 27 and will include celebratory events for the Class of 2020.
Over 1,200 graduates, faculty, staff, speakers and technical staff watched the ceremonies, and over 6,300 friends and family members livestreamed the ceremonies.
A message from Collado was played at each ceremony.
“I know that your senior year was turned upside down, and I know how much you’ve lost,” Collado said. “But I also know how strong the Class of 2020 is, how tenacious you are and how all that you’ve gone through this year will serve as a touchstone of courage for the rest of your lives.”
Each graduate received a celebration box, which included diplomas, covers, the Class of 2020 medallion and personalized gifts. The medallions include a quote from Frederick Douglass, stating, “To find valuable qualities in our fellows, such qualities must be presumed and expected.”
Collado said that Douglass’s quote reminds her to remain optimistic during the worst of times and to expect the best of others.
“I look forward to seeing how you will live out these words in the coming years and how your IC experience will help you find your place in this changing world,” she said.
Cindi Berger ’83, chairman of Rogers & Cowan PMK, an international public relations and marketing firm, and Bill McKibben, an environmental activist, received honorary degrees. Beverly Baker ’54 received the Presidential Medal.
A message from McKibben was played at all of the ceremonies. He spoke about the Class of 2020’s role in facing crises, both the COVID-19 pandemic and the climate crisis.
“I wish I could tell you that you are graduating into an easy world where you have no problems,” he said. “Obviously, you know that is not the case. … But that also means that you graduate into a moment where you are desperately needed.”
Berger also spoke at each ceremony. She said that if anyone can overcome the challenges of postgraduate life, it is the Class of 2020.
“Perhaps Zoom wasn’t your app of choice; it probably still isn’t,” Berger said. “But you understand better than anyone how to use social media to connect, to stay in touch, get in touch, to organize, inform, to combat hate and spread joy.”
A message from Gabrielle Picca ’20, president of the Class of 2020, played at all of the ceremonies as well.
“Although our time at IC was cut short, I am beyond grateful for the time that I did have and hope that you look back at your time at IC with gratitude and joy as well,” Picca said.
She led a moment of silence for members of the college community who died during the Class of 2020’s time at the college, including student Jase Barrack and Sue-Je Gage, associate professor in the Department of Anthropology.
Aisha Mae Mughal ’20, Class of 2020 director of communications, introduced the graduates at each ceremony, who were then shown celebrating on screen.
Acapella groups Premium Blend, IC Voicestream and Ithacapella performed “Determinate” from the Disney Channel Original Movie “Lemonade Mouth” at four of the ceremonies.
Collado ended each ceremony by throwing confetti in front of the Dillingham Fountain and asked students at home to throw their own confetti.
“Thank you for enriching our campus and our town, and I hope to have an opportunity to see you again, right here on South Hill,” Collado said.
School of Music
Julia Plato ’20, student marshal for the School of Music, welcomed attendees to the ceremony and introduced music students who played a piece by Leon Yu ’20 titled “Hindsight Fanfare.” Yu then introduced Keith Kaiser, interim dean for the School of Music.
“It is through the beat of a rhythm and through the song of a melody and through the beauty of a phrase that music can impact others in deep and meaningful ways that no other experience can,” Kaiser said. “Use the power of your music to make a difference.”
The Ithaca College Treble Chorale performed “Blessing” by Katie Bart to celebrate the graduates.
Guests included Zachary James ’05, an actor, singer and opera artist, and members of jazz vocal group New York Voices Kim Nazarian ’83, Peter Eldridge ’82, Darmon Meader ’84 and Lauren Kinhan, who gave speeches to congratulate the graduates.
School of Humanities and Sciences
Isabel Brooke ’20, student marshal for the School of Humanities and Sciences, welcomed students to the commencement.
Melanie Stein, dean of the School of Humanities and Sciences, congratulated the graduating class on all of its achievements. Stein recognized specific H&S students for their achievements in their fields.
She said that although there were many challenges, the Class of 2020 showed its resilience and determination.
“You buckled down, and you finished your courses, your theses, your research projects often in very challenging circumstances,” Stein said. “You engaged, you spoke out for what you believe, you took action.”
Guest speaker CCH Pounder ’75, a television and film actor, gave a speech to congratulate the graduates.
“Just keep it up, keep all of your skills honed, and know that there is work to be done, and we need for you to do it,” she said.
School of Business
Adam French ’20, student marshal for the School of Business, welcomed graduates to the ceremony.
Alka Bramhandkar, interim dean of the School of Business, said that if there is one word to describe the accomplishments of the Class of 2020, it is resiliency.
“At the start of the spring semester, none of us expected that we would soon be engulfed in one of the greatest health challenges of our time,” Bramhandkar said. “This class has risen to the particular demands of this unusual year.”
She then introduced Sean Reid, former dean of the Business School.
“You were the first class I got to help recruit,” Reid said. “I got to meet many of you and your families while you were still in high school and then really got to watch you grow over the four years we were here together at Ithaca College.”
Guest speakers and Business School alumni David Canter ’95, CEO of DEC Management, and John Neeson ’84, a marketing analytics expert, sent their best wishes to the Class of 2020.
School of Health Sciences and Human Performance
Haley Ashton ’20, student marshal for the School of Health Sciences and Human Performance, welcomed all attendees to the ceremony. She introduced Linda Petrosino, dean of the School of Health Sciences and Human Performance.
Petrosino acknowledged graduates who could not attend because of power outages caused by Tropical Storm Isaias. She then talked about the difficulties the graduates endured as they finished their senior year.
“We are here, so far apart, but yet so close, bonded by a unique challenge that we are experiencing together,” she said. “In many ways, your unique experience makes this an extra special event.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, congratulated the Class of 2020.
“Please hang in there,” Fauci said. “We need your talent, your energy, your resolve [and] your character to get through this difficult time.”
Roy H. Park School of Communications
The School of Communications ceremony was postponed to two days later due to power outages from Tropical Storm Isaias. Jessica Competiello ’20, student marshal for the School of Communications, welcomed graduates to the ceremony and introduced Jack Powers, interim dean of the School of Communications.
“Future generations will talk about the Class of 2020,” Powers said. “You’ll be a special class, one that is forever cemented in history.”
He then introduced Diane Gayeski, former dean of the School of Communications.
Gayeski reflected on the members of the Class of 2020 who visited her office and also the guest speakers from their freshman year S’Park class.
“You’ve heard lots of differing advice and opinions and paths,” she said. “And through it all we’ve encouraged you to be strong, to be creative, to think outside the box, to collaborate and not compete and most of all to be true to yourself.”
Guest speakers Ciara Lucas ’17, reporter for ABC in Ohio; Rob Flaherty ’13, digital director for presidential candidate Joe Biden’s campaign; and Michael Symon, host of Iron Chef on the Food Network, sent their best wishes.
“You’re leaving a community of thoughtful do-ers to go into a world that sorely needs them,” Flaherty said. “So don’t worry about the path. You are the path and I’m really excited to see what you do.”