UMass Boston

Pomp and Circumstance, a Year in the Making

08/27/2021| Gray Milkowski

At long last, the class of 2020 had their moment.

graduates outside TD Garden
Image By: Bob Durling

“ There will always be more to do, but for now, you can rest and know that the work you’ve done is beautiful, meaningful, and good. ”

Seventeen months after they were sent to learn remotely, and fifteen months after COVID-19 postponed their original commencement date, students from the UMass Boston class of 2020 gathered at the TD Garden on Thursday afternoon to celebrate the university’s 52nd commencement exercises.

“Today we are celebrating a very special occasion that you and your loved ones have been anticipating for years,” said Maria Vasco, recipient of the 2020 John F. Kennedy Award for Academic Excellence, who spoke virtually to a crowd of her fellow graduates. “Your friends, family, parents, staff, and faculty members are all so proud of you, and are in one accord, celebrating your major and very well deserved accomplishments.”

She shared the pride that she had in her own story, one that is emblematic of countless other UMass Boston graduates and students.

“I am proud to stand here as a first-generation student, woman of color, and once-upon-a-time undocumented human being,” she said. “I honor this university for taking students from different backgrounds and circumstances to put us here as one to fulfill our educational dreams.”

Marta Pagan, who received her Ph.D. in Philosophy last year, also joined the ceremony virtually to speak to her fellow graduates. She urged them to use their knowledge to be forces of change.

“UMass Boston has a specific mission of civic engagement for the public good, and as graduates of this school, we have a responsibility in not only thinking about how we help people deal and manage individual pain and uncertainty, but also in thinking about and creating change,” she said.

“We have a responsibility to use our knowledge and our privilege to not only dismantle systems of oppression, but to assist in creating new and compassionate systems of care.”

Christine Towers, the final student speaker, urged graduates to celebrate, despite the chaos of the moment.

“These circumstances have been, and continue to be, exceptionally challenging,” she said of the past year and a half. “I hope that today you can find some time and space to celebrate your own transformations, the person you are becoming, and all of the work you have done along the way. There will always be more to do, but for now, you can rest and know that the work you’ve done is beautiful, meaningful, and good.”

Despite the COVID-19 induced delay of more than a year, students flocked from around the country and the world to have their name spoken over the loudspeaker at the TD Garden, and celebrate their academic achievements.

Kosuke Harada, who graduated from the College of Management with a concentration in international management, talked about what the moment meant to his family.

“I’m the first person in my family to graduate from a school outside of my country,” he said. “My parents are very excited … they’re watching online. It’s special for our family.”

Kristyne Donnelly, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree from the College of Education and Human Development, worked full-time through school, and was thrilled to celebrate the degree she’s worked towards for years.

“It’s just great to get the chance to walk across [the stage] to get my bachelor’s degree after such a long wait and going to school for so long, and then waiting yet another year. But now that we’re actually celebrating, it’s a big accomplishment for me and my family.”