St. John’s University kept its promise to the Classes of 2020 and 2021 by hosting in-person Commencement ceremonies during the week of July 12 on the Queens, NY, campus. Each ceremony was a microcosm of the traditional Commencement ceremony, offering all of the same pomp and fanfare—but on a smaller, socially distanced scale. Overcast skies, heat, and humidity did nothing to dampen the joyful atmosphere and enthusiasm of graduates and their families who were thrilled to finally share this moment with each other.
“I am surprised and edified by how many of you have returned to campus for this ceremony,” offered Rev. Brian J. Shanley, O.P., President of St. John’s, as he presided over his first in-person event since assuming his role in February. “Technically, your degrees have already been virtually conferred. But that conferral somehow felt like it was incomplete, not enough. What you longed for was the completion that comes through ritual and ceremony and community.”
He added, “That is why you are here today: because deep down in human nature we need to pass through the important transitions in our lives in a meaningful way together. That is something that we lost in the time of pandemic. Think about all of the baptisms, weddings, funerals, anniversaries, and graduations that we were not able to celebrate together and that we grieved. Today we reclaim the power of ritual.”
Combined ceremonies were held for the 2021 classes of St. John’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and The School of Education; and for The Peter J. Tobin College of Business and the College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, while The Lesley H. and William L. Collins College of Professional Studies (CCPS) celebrated its graduates in a stand-alone ceremony. The Class of 2020 was recognized during its own ceremony on July 16. More than 700 graduates attended the combined ceremonies, while over 500 attended the CCPS ceremony. More than 800 graduates attended the 2020 ceremony.
“During your studies, I am confident that you have faced tremendous moments of great joy, but you have undoubtedly also faced some challenges,” said Simon G. Møller, Ph.D., Provost, Vice President for Academic Affairs, University Distinguished Professor, and Provost Endowed Chair. “The last year-and-a-half has been hard on all of us, but particularly on you as students, navigating a mixture of online, hybrid, and on-campus classes while still staying focused and missing out on your favorite student activities, being with your friends, and celebrating important milestones—but you persevered. You have shown grit and resilience.”
“Being isolated from my friends and professors during my senior year was so difficult,” said Angela Tran ’21C, who earned her degree in Chemistry. “Despite these challenges, I’m extremely thankful to have been able to graduate in person with my classmates and my family present. The in-person graduation made me feel like this chapter of my life was truly complete, and I’m thankful to all of my family, friends, and St. John’s faculty who helped me to accomplish this goal as a first-generation graduate.”
Information Technology major Matthew Ottomanelli ’21CCPS applauded his professors for squeezing the most out of the pandemic learning experience. “They had to make adjustments quickly, and they did a great job.” His beaming parents, Charles and Allison, both remarked that after this long and difficult road they were thrilled to celebrate their son’s achievement together as a family. Mr. Ottomanelli said, “Doing this in person is great. It’s everything.”
View all photo galleries:
St. John's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences / School of Education (Gallery 1)St. John's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences / School of Education (Gallery 2)
College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences / The Peter J. Tobin College of Business (Gallery 1)College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences / The Peter J. Tobin College of Business (Gallery 2)
The Lesley H. and William L. Collins College of Professional Studies (Gallery 1)The Lesley H. and William L. Collins College of Professional Studies (Gallery 2)
Class of 2020 (Gallery 1)Class of 2020 (Gallery 2)