Per tradition, members of the graduating Classes of 2020 returned to Saga for a champagne toast and remarks from a member of the faculty.
On the eve of their commencement, the Classes of 2020 returned to the Saga Dining Hall to reminisce, toast and receive well wishes from President Joyce P. Jacobsen, Chaplain Nita Byrd, Hobart Assistant Dean Joseph Mink, William Smith Assistant Dean Kelly Payne and Professor of Economics Thomas Drennen. Fifteen months since they left campus due to the coronavirus pandemic, “Saga-sitting” one more time was a homecoming for many students.
“It was so sad not to be able to say goodbye to you properly last year. To have you back with us now, it is such a happy time… Enjoy. Nothing is asked of you this weekend besides to be in the moment,” said Jacobsen, who along with Drennen was named an honorary member of the Classes of 2020.
As Drennen pointed out in his remarks, the Classes of 2020 left campus before social distancing and other pandemic safety protocols were implemented. During their dinner in Saga, they had a glimpse into the past year on campus: Plexiglas on every table to separate diners, masks and distance between tables. During his remarks, Drennen also reflected on the evolution of virtual learning on campus. Whereas the Classes of 2020 switched entirely to a remote learning model, the Classes of 2021 and younger experienced a hybrid-learning environment, where some students attended class in person and other joined virtually.
“You lived through it. You’re never going to forget 2020. You all went out into an uncertain world. I have no doubt many of you experienced hardships. Fifteen months later, you made it back. Now it’s time to celebrate. In the future, keep in touch. Your faculty members like to hear from you. We remember you. We remember where you sat. We want to hear from you,” Drennen said.
Encouraging students to “remain curious about the world and to keep reading,” the first-year deans gave each student three books: The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks about Race edited by Jesmyn Ward, The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch, and Make Your Home Among Strangers by Jennine Capo Crucet.
“From the moment you stepped on campus and met your Orientation Mentors, you began to make ties to each other… In creating this sense of community, you made the Colleges a better place. You voiced your concerns, demanded change, created new resources and opportunities that will be lasting for the students who follow. All of this, while earning your degree in a devastating human crisis,” Payne said.
“Over the next few days, have fun with your friends. Also, reflect on your accomplishments. Reflect on the accomplishments you want to have. This time and this place are now part of you. And we hope you will take HWS wherever you go in the future,” Mink added.