The Trinity College community recently celebrated the graduates of the Class of 2020 through two online events. With their Commencement ceremony on campus postponed until spring 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, members of this year’s graduating class were honored with a virtual Baccalaureate program and a special tribute video, both of which they could view remotely with their families from anywhere around the world.
The virtual “Baccalaureate 2020” program invited reflection, offered thanksgiving, and included wisdom, prayer, and music from many traditions—in addition to sweeping aerial views of campus and the familiar sounds of the Trinity College Chapel’s pipe organ and carillon bells. The video was shared online on Saturday, May 16, the date which marked the 197th anniversary of the college’s founding.
The program featured guest speaker and honorary doctor of divinity degree recipient The Most Rev. Michael Bruce Curry, presiding bishop and primate of the Episcopal Church. The Rev. Allison Read, college chaplain and dean of spiritual and religious life, welcomed the Trinity community to the unique virtual gathering before presenting Curry—whom Read noted is perhaps most well-known for presiding over the wedding of Prince Harry and Megan Markle—to Trinity College President Joanne Berger-Sweeney for the honorary degree.
In his Baccalaureate Address, Curry noted that he spent some time in conversation with Trinity students via Zoom and he was asked what gives him hope in difficult times. Recalling volunteering for the late Robert F. Kennedy’s Senate campaign when he was in high school, Curry said, “One of the often-repeated quotes that Sen. Kennedy said was quoting George Bernard Shaw… ‘Some men see things as they are and ask, ‘Why?’; I dream things that never were and ask, ‘Why not?’
“The truth is, those who have made a difference, however large or small, are people who have dared to be ‘Why not?’ people, who have not settled for the way things are,” Curry said. “My dear friends, Class of 2020… do not settle for the ‘why’ of this world. Be strong and courageous; dare to dream and to make a dream reality and ask, ‘Why not?’”
To watch the video of Curry’s conversation with members of the Trinity community, click here.
Read more about all of this year’s honorary degree recipients here.
A Tribute to the Graduating Students
“Today’s activities are in no way intended to replace a traditional Commencement ceremony, but we couldn’t let today pass without marking the completion of the academic year and celebrating you, our graduating students,” Berger-Sweeney said at the start of “A Tribute to the Graduating Students of the Class of 2020” on Sunday, May 17, the original date of Commencement. The video included the conferral of degrees to candidates for bachelor of arts, bachelor of science, and master of arts degrees, in addition to short videos submitted by graduating students who shared some of their favorite memories of their time at Trinity.
In a lemonade toast to the class that bookended the “Lemon Squeezer” tradition the graduates learned about at their Convocation ceremony four years ago, Berger-Sweeney said, “Please, raise your glasses and join me in celebrating you and your accomplishments as official graduates of Trinity College. Your liberal arts education has prepared you for uncertainty and challenge. Today, you join the ranks of alumni of Trinity College. You will emerge out of this crisis stronger and embark on a new chapter in your lives, more resilient and determined than ever.”
Cornelia Thornburgh ’80, chair of the Trinity College Board of Trustees, recognized the recipients of this year’s Trustee Awards for Excellence, whom she said exemplify Trinity’s highest standards and bring distinction to the institution. The Trustee Awards for Student Excellence went to Rahuljeet Chadha ’20 and Hamna Tariq ’20. Professor of Physics and Environmental Science Christoph Geiss and Jonathan Gourley, principal lecturer and laboratory coordinator in the Environmental Science Program, received the Trustee Awards for Faculty Excellence. Director of Campus Safety Brian Heavren received the Trustee Award for Staff Excellence.
Secretary of the Faculty Mark Stater, associate professor of economics, remarked on the determination of the graduates to complete their Trinity education even under exceptional circumstances this semester. “Rest assured that your class will never be forgotten,” he said. “Be strong, courageous, and blessed with good fortune as you go forth into the world.”
Eric Estes ’91, president of the Trinity College Alumni Association, encouraged the graduates to keep in touch with their professors and with fellow alumni. “One of Trinity’s greatest strengths is its tremendous alumni network, and we welcome you with open arms,” Estes said.
Demonstrating the ability of this network to pull together, alumni were invited this spring to share messages of encouragement with the graduating students as they worked hard to finish their final classes remotely and prepared to join the alumni community. One such note said, in part, “Trinity is a special place. … while [alumni] are all different, we all share a passion for the college, a love of learning for the sake of learning, a commitment to service, and a willingness to make our mark in the world at large. … Rest assured, as you blaze a trail and make your mark in that world, that Trinity will be there every step of the way.”
Both video presentations concluded with Trinity’s alma mater, “’Neath the Elms,” performed for the tribute to the Class of 2020 by the a cappella groups The Trinitones and The Pipes; and for the Baccalaureate program by The Chapel Singers.
To watch “Baccalaureate 2020,” click here.
To watch “A Tribute to the Graduating Students of the Class of 2020,” click here.