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F&M to Honor Class of 2020 at Virtual Commencement Ceremony Feb. 20

Franklin & Marshall’s Class of 2020 will be the focus of the College’s Virtual Commencement Recognition Celebration Feb. 20. While the members of the class had their in-person celebration delayed by the global COVID-19 pandemic, the virtual Commencement, which begins at 2 p.m. Eastern, will salute the group for its resilience and determination.

F&M President Barbara Altmann will address that resilience in her remarks to the young alumni. “My charge to you, the courageous Class of 2020, is to hold fast to the care, intelligence, and persistence that it took for you to succeed at Franklin & Marshall College and to bring them with you to the world around you now,” she said. “Follow your passions with determination and joy despite the obstacles. Cultivate your intellectual curiosity. Fight anti-intellectualism wherever you encounter it, and help to bring perspective to every conversation. When your path is impeded, find ways through, around, over and beyond the obstacles, to move forward.”

As the graduates enter the next chapter of their lives — as professionals or in pursuit of graduate degrees — Altmann encouraged them to lean into the skills they honed during their years at F&M.

“In these difficult days, it has never been clearer that the world needs Diplomats. The world needs you. In your years at F&M, you have honed your ability to make connections across difference, to think deeply, to ask the right questions — these attributes will serve you and others very well. At this moment in our shared history, it is imperative to rebuild human connections and to bring your knowledge to bear in the pursuit of your own personal fulfillment and professional success, but also as community service. This is the moment when we need to merge civic knowledge with civic action. You are graduating at a time when you have vital work to do.”

Anastasiia Grigoreva, a summa cum laude cognitive science major and psychology minor, was selected as the recipient of the Williamson Medal, the highest student award presented each year since 1922. The outstanding member of the class grew up in Penza, Russia, and plans to discuss in her remarks how vulnerable she felt as the pandemic prevented her from visiting family.

“Only in embracing my vulnerability in front of others did I finally feel the weight of deep hopelessness lifted off my shoulders,” Grigoreva said. “The last year has shown us all just how dependent we are on each other. But this vulnerability is not something to avoid. Its beauty is that it is profoundly human — we all stand in this relationship of being vulnerable with each other. This gives rise to real human caring – the kind of caring we have to keep cultivating, now more than ever. By holding on to these genuinely caring relationships, allowing ourselves to care unceasingly and without limits, we have a chance at a life that is beautiful and meaningful, even in this time of global uncertainty.”

The Commencement speaker is Pedro Rivera, the president of the Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology in Lancaster. Before arriving there in October, he was the Pennsylvania Secretary of Education for five years, and he previously served as the superintendent of first the Philadelphia and then the Lancaster school districts.

After its original Commencement date last May 16 was postponed, the College tentatively scheduled an in-person ceremony for mid-December on campus. In the meantime, F&M officials, along with representatives of the Class of 2020, scheduled Senior Celebration Week. It ran the week leading up to the canceled Commencement and featured an interactive website and social media feeds allowing faculty, staff, family, friends and fellow students the opportunity to post photos and messages of support and best wishes.

When the rescheduled December in-person event also had to be canceled because of the continuing pandemic, College officials assembled the Virtual Commencement Recognition Celebration. If health and safety conditions allow, the Class of 2020 will be honored in person on campus this fall, possibly at True Blue Weekend, Oct. 15-17.

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