UMass Boston

UMass Boston Celebrates Classes of 2021 and 2020 at TD Garden Ceremonies

08/27/2021| Crystal Valencia

More than 7,500 graduates from UMass Boston’s Class of 2020 and Class of 2021 were honored Thursday as the university held in-person commencement ceremonies at the TD Garden for the first time since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

Student graduating during 2021 commencement
Image By: Bob Durling

“ In the face of the grave challenges of our day, you have willed hope into being. ”

Graduates crossed the stage in their caps and gowns as friends and family cheered them on from the arena seats, and thousands more watched the celebration on computer screens. While everyone remained in masks as a safety precaution, face coverings couldn’t hide the excitement as the UMass Boston community came together to celebrate after a year and a half of remote learning and social distancing.

Graduation cap that says Two Eternities and One Pandemic Later

In a historic first, the university held two commencements in one day— with the Class of 2021 kicking off festivities in the morning, and the Class of 2020 processing later in the afternoon. The university also hosted virtual ceremonies on the UMass Boston website.

Chancellor Marcelo Suárez-Orozco applauded the remarkable achievements of the two graduating classes of Beacons, praising their resilience, determination, and ability to improvise.

“In the face of the grave challenges of our day, you, members of the UMass Boston graduating classes of 2020 and 2021, have willed hope into being,” Chancellor Suárez-Orozco said. “You are the generation that took the battle to the frontlines of the twin pandemics of COVID-19 and structural racism. You persevered in the face of tremendous odds. You are the generation that mastered Mundo Zoom and kept the struggle while making progress towards this day– your day, the day of your graduation.

Chancellor speaking at commencement

“In your grit, in your perseverance, in your ganas, you the COVID-19 generation, taught my generation, taught each other, taught the world the power of human agency, the power of solidarity, the power of sheer faith and will in the face of great adversity,” he said.

UMass Boston conferred degrees to 3,860 members of the Class of 2021 and 3,727 in the Class of 2020. Graduates hail from more than 140 countries around the world, and speak 100 different languages. More than 50 percent of UMass Boston students are first-generation college students.

The university also held doctoral hooding ceremonies on Wednesday, August 25 on campus.

Chancellor Suárez-Orozco took a moment to honor those who have been on the frontlines during the pandemic, and the arena joined in a moment of silence in tribute to those lost to COVID-19.

“My heart goes out to our first responders, our nurses and doctors, our EMTs and orderlies, cooks and cleaners, our teachers, and all workers braving the pandemic to bring relief, to bring love, to bring tenderness to those most closely touched by the pandemic,” Chancellor Suárez-Orozco said.

The virtual portion of the celebration –viewable at– featured addresses by UMass President Martin Meehan, Secretary of the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs Kathleen Theoharides G’07, and Boston Globe columnist Adrian Walker. Theoharides and Walker both received a Chancellor’s Medal for Distinguished Service.

Undergraduate JFK Award winners Maurice Roberson ’21 and Maria Vasco ’20, and graduate student speakers Anthony C. Martin ’21, Christie Towers ’20, and Marta Pagán-Ortiz ’20 also offered words of advice for the two classes.

Adrian Walker

Walker told the Class of 2020 to continue to be champions of equity, justice, and truth.

“If there’s one thing that defines UMass Boston, in my eyes, it’s the conviction that everyone willing to work hard, sacrifice, and commit to learning, belongs. That is something to hold onto even as you move on,” he said. “It’s something you can all be proud of. … UMass Boston stands nearly alone as a mirror of the city we are becoming, truly diverse, a place of challenges yes, but opportunities, and a hub of innovation.”

Theoharides spoke of how it won’t be science alone that brings us back from the pandemic or helps us rebuild.

“Science is what gives us answers and solutions, and yes even hope,” she said. “But it will be people in every line of work pulling together to get through the final stages of this pandemic, and then digging in and finding the strength to create a new and more resilient future.

“You are our newest problem solvers, our newest vaccine developers, our newest teachers and authors, politicians and athletes, community leaders and environmental champions, health care workers and counselors, scientists and artists. And as the sun breaks through the clouds after this very dark year, I can’t help but reflect on your graduation and the graduation of your peers around the country and the world … as a down payment on hope,” Theoharids said.

UMass President Marty Meehan told graduates that we are at the threshold of reaching a better place.

“We can sense a reawakening,” Meehan said. “The world needs the members of this very special class to help it reawaken, to emerge, and recover. The world also needs to bring forward your values and the values of UMass Boston as this is a university that has always been committed to fairness and social justice.”

graduates outside TD Garden

Watch UMass Boston virtual and in-person commencement ceremonies at