Fr. Jenkins: letter to graduate and professional students of the Class of 2020

Author: Olivia Hall

Note: Dated communications are archived here for reference, but may not reflect the most up-to-date information available.

Dear Graduate and Professional Students of the Class of 2020:

I write now to you a letter I had hoped I would not need to send. We have all been following the news about the spread of the COVID-19 virus, and I have consulted with several experts on infectious diseases. Although there remains a good deal of uncertainty about the trajectory and duration of the pandemic, it is becoming clear that it would not be prudent to host on May 16-17 the Notre Dame Commencement on our campus—a large gathering bringing together families from across the country and around the world, many with older and at-risk members. The Notre Dame Commencement weekend means so much to our graduates, their families, our faculty and to me personally, and so it is with greatest regret that I tell you we will not be able to gather you on campus for Commencement this May.

Despite this disappointing turn of events, we remain committed to honoring and celebrating the hard work and effort that has culminated in the doctoral and master’s degrees that you have so rightly earned. We will approach our celebration of these achievements in stages. Because you will need your degrees conferred and certified in May in order to pursue your post-Notre Dame plans, we will hold an on-line ceremony on the originally scheduled date of May 17. This will include a recorded address by the University’s Commencement speaker, and a conferral on you by me of your degrees via live-stream.

Although the on-line ceremony and conferral will be important, we also want to gather in person and give you the opportunity to celebrate your achievements with your fellow graduates, faculty, family and friends. We will, then, invite you back to campus on Memorial Day Weekend 2021, when the University will recognize all the members of the Class of 2020. In addition to a number of other celebrations that weekend, we envision the following in terms of formal recognition of your accomplishments:

  • For the Graduate School programs, a ceremony much like we would typically hold, to include hooding for our doctoral recipients and individual recognition and a walk across the stage for our master’s recipients.
  • For the Mendoza School of Business, a graduate business diploma ceremony similar to the typical ceremony we would hold.
  • For the Law School, a doctoral hooding ceremony and honors convocation.
  • Finally, for the School of Architecture, a ceremony that will bring together all the graduates of the School of Architecture as we do every year, graduate and undergraduate. This will include individual recognition of each graduate of the School and other events that are typically part of the School’s graduation traditions.

In the coming weeks and months, the deans of these schools will provide further communications about these ceremonies and celebrations. We hope that by giving you a good deal of advance notice of the date, you and your families can plan accordingly.

Again, I am so sorry to have to deliver this message to you, but I believe we can make these celebrations special at every stage. Those who graduate from Notre Dame in 2020 will have something in common with the Notre Dame Class of 1879, when students were sent home abruptly on April 23rd after a terrible fire left the campus in ashes. The University, and those students, arose from the ashes of 1879 even stronger. You will as well. The 2020 Class of graduates will always have a special place in the hearts of all who are part of Notre Dame. I look forward to the celebrations to come. Through our patroness, Mary, I ask for God’s blessing on each of you and on your loved ones in this trying time.

In Notre Dame,

Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C.