WOOSTER, Ohio – A theme of hopefulness resonated throughout Virtual Commencement 2020, the first (and hopefully only) time The College of Wooster produced a ceremony to honor its seniors on-line, with President Sarah Bolton presiding over the celebration of 413 new graduates on Monday afternoon. It marked the 150th Commencement at Wooster.
The uniqueness of a virtual ceremony, caused by the coronavirus pandemic of course, was certainly not lost on Bolton, but she emphasized this was a time to savor all the senior class accomplished. “All of our lives are changed from what they were or from what we imagined just a few months ago … so how do we celebrate?” she asked. “We celebrate because of you, Class of 2020. We celebrate because of who you are. You have not only done great work to arrive at this moment, you have persevered through tremendous disruption to complete your final semester. And, we celebrate you also because of who you will be and because of the impact you will make in the world.”
Bolton’s optimism resides in knowing the outstanding qualities of this year’s graduating class. “Your brilliance, your dedication, your commitment to others, your knowledge and your wisdom and your perspective will make a difference,” she said. “We celebrate your individual talents, but we also celebrate who you all are as a community. Together, you have made things happen … (and) you have made friendships that have changed who you are and you will always be connected. Together you will emerge from this difficult time to lead and to care for a world that is ready and hungry for the change that you will bring.”
Bolton recognized six seniors individually for completing their undergraduate academic careers with perfect 4.0 GPA’s – Tianyi Cai, Alexis Lanier, Maya Lapp, Matt Mayes, Henry Potts-Rubin, and Emily Randall. They each were winners of the Jonas O. Notestein Prize as students with the highest academic standing in the class, while also singled out was Maryori Sosa, recipient of the Dan F. Lockhart ’74 Outstanding Senior Award, given to one who has made outstanding contributions to the life of the College via high academic achievement, participation in extracurricular activities, and demonstrated leadership in campus affairs.
Two inspiring musical performances were blended into the ceremony, one by the Wooster Chorus and another by Kimberly McDonough ’17. The Wooster Chorus performed a Zoom-version of composer Kim André Arnesen’s “I Hope,” a series of spoken pleas for humility, mercy, and mutual understanding over a stirring choral background. McDonough, a violinist, played an original work, “Shine,” which is a “reminder that we all have a bright light to shine within each of us.”
Bolton echoed McDonough’s wishes for the Class of 2020 during her closing comments, “Together, your light shines brightly. I can see it from here. I hope that you can see one another’s light, even when you’re far apart.”
Monday’s Virtual Commencement, which also consisted of a special video compilation of the seniors, a traditional invocation by Erin Guzmán, interim director of religious and spiritual life, and remarks from Christine Farrell ’94, president of the alumni association, was the first of two such ceremonies for Wooster’s Class of 2020. A traditional, in-person commencement, with processions, honorary degrees, student speeches, and the calling of every name, will take place when it is safe to gather on campus.