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2020 Graduates Celebrate in Long-Awaited Ceremony

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Jon Stone

Media Relations Manager

Jon Stone

News  •

It was a celebration a year in the making.

This past weekend, the University of Denver honored the Class of 2020 with an in-person Commencement ceremony, a tradition that had to be postponed last spring due to the COVID-19 global pandemic.

“It took patience this past year as we waited out a historic pandemic in order to have this important ceremony to celebrate your accomplishments,” Chancellor Jeremy Haefner told the assembled graduates and their families.

Of the more than 3,000 undergraduate and graduate students from last year’s class, about 500 returned to campus over the weekend to celebrate during four different ceremonies. The added ceremonies made it possible for graduates not only to social distance on the floor of Magness Arena but also for them to invite up to five guests.

Overcoming challenges and adapting to new conditions was the message of the address delivered by Dr. Michael Salem, president and CEO of National Jewish Health.

“You have already succeeded under circumstances not experienced on this planet in more than 100 years. You have persevered and adapted to complete your studies and earn your diplomas during a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic,” Salem told the graduates in a pre-recorded message. “Take pride in your success, store them in your retrievable memory banks and access them as you encounter all manner of life experiences.”

Salem also discussed the partnership created between National Jewish Health and DU early in the pandemic. The collaboration helped the University create a safe environment on campus and provided both institutions an opportunity to serve the community.

“We all celebrated when multiple vaccines became available,” he said. “We quickly turned together to helping to distribute the vaccine, including collaborating with hundreds of volunteers from both institutions, working countless hours and days a week at mass-vaccination events.”

These events have resulted in more than 20,000 doses of vaccine being administered to individuals from across the Denver metro area.

Although these graduates have already entered the workforce or started graduate school, the University kept a promise made a year ago — to honor the 2020 alumni with an in-person celebration. Before congratulating the class, the chancellor left them with one request:

“Go out and continue to make our communities better, more equitable, more innovative, more inspiring. As you embody this University’s enduring commitment to the public good you make us all, your alma mater and the entire DU community, immeasurably proud.”

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