St. Olaf welcomes the Class of 2020 to campus for commencement weekend
More than a year after the pandemic put a hold on the commencement ceremony for the Class of 2020, St. Olaf College welcomed graduates and their families back to campus for an in-person celebration.
In addition to the commencement ceremony held on Saturday, August 14, 2021, members of the Class of 2020 had the opportunity to attend baccalaureate, participate in the illumination ceremony, enjoy a grad gala, and sign the tower in Old Main.
More than 450 members of the Class of 2020 and their families returned to campus for the weekend celebration. On the picturesque lawn in front of Mellby Hall, they finally had their chance to walk across the commencement stage and receive recognition for their hard work and accomplishments.
“I’m so happy that we can gather here today, together and in person, to celebrate the Class of 2020 and encourage you as you do great things,” President David R. Anderson ’74 told students and their families gathered for the ceremony.
The Class of 2020 senior commencement address was delivered by Ulises Eduardo Jovel Orantes ’20, a political science and philosophy major from San Salvador, El Salvador. He reflected on the initial uncertainty he felt about finding his place at St. Olaf as a new first-year student — and expressed gratitude for all the fellow students and faculty members who helped him not only find his place, but grow as a person and challenge the inequalities and injustices all around him. He encouraged his fellow Class of 2020 graduates to reflect on the world in which they want to live and the role they can play in making that a reality.
“As you move forward with your plans, I urge you to stop for a second, dig deeper, and reexamine,” he said.
St. Olaf Vice President for Student Life Hassel Andre Morrison delivered the charge to the class, noting that few commencement events feel like a family reunion — but this one did. “This moment is different. This occasion is wonderful. And to see so many of you return home feels special. Welcome home, family,” Morrison said.
The Class of 2020 is unique and inspirational. At times, I’m sure you had doubts. You were thrown off course, but you endured. You looked the face of challenge in the eye and refused to be derailed. Today is a day of reflection and celebration of your achievements and your might.Vice President for Student Life Hassel Morrison
He added that at first, he didn’t know how to address the Class of 2020 — a class that had lost so many things in the spring of their senior year, from in-person classes and labs to concerts, athletic competitions, and study-abroad opportunities. But, Morrison noted, then he reflected on the strength the class had shown in the face of adversity.
“The challenges of 2020 disrupted you, but they did not break you. As you continue your journey in life, you will reflect on the resilience that you demonstrated. You were able to shift and adapt to a crisis at a moment’s notice,” Morrison said. “The Class of 2020 is unique and inspirational. At times, I’m sure you had doubts. You were thrown off course, but you endured. You looked the face of challenge in the eye and refused to be derailed. Today is a day of reflection and celebration of your achievements and your might.”
Congratulations, Class of 2020!