A long-awaited commencement for SU’s 2020 graduates

SU class of 2020 finally has commencement

At long last, the SU class of 2020 got their official commencement ceremony.
Published: September 20, 2021 | Updated: October 6th, 2021 at 3:51 pm
A 2020 SU graduate waves before the September 19, 2021 Commencement ceremony in the Dome on September 17th, 2021.
A 2020 SU graduate waves before the Commencement ceremony on Sunday in the Dome.

After over a year of waiting, the Syracuse University graduating class of 2020 finally celebrated Commencement in the Carrier Dome on Sunday.

About 7,000 people gathered for the event, which had been canceled last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Approximately 2,000 of them were graduates, according to SU News Services Media Manager Keith Kobland. The ceremony also honored the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry graduates.

Students greeted and hugged each other as they walked around the field waiting for the ceremony to start. Irmak Turanli, an architecture graduate from Istanbul, said she felt “amazing.”

“It’s so good to see my professors and my friends and the campus,” she said.

Though many students, including Turanli, held graduation ceremonies with their friends and family at home during May of last year, the field buzzed with excitement.

“I think we all moved on so I was happy that we have a graduation, but it wouldn’t be the end of my life if we didn’t have it, ” she said.

SU faculty proceeds in during the September 19, 2021 Commencement ceremony in the Dome on September 19th, 2021.
SU faculty proceeds in at the start of the Commencement ceremony on Sunday.

Some students decorated their mortarboard hats with quotes and words like “Nevertheless, she persisted,” and “finally”, recalling the resilience demonstrated through the last year and a half of virtual and hybrid classes.

Not all graduates felt as joyful as their fellow classmates. Mechanical engineering graduate Brandon Bushey called the event “bittersweet.”

“It’s obviously good to almost get that closure after the past year and a half,” he said. “At the same time, it’s kind of tough to come back and see everything has moved on and that sort of thing.”

Bushey said he was excited about sitting in the Dome with his friends.

“I haven’t seen them in way too long,” he said.

2020 SU graduates share a moment during the September 19, 2021 Commencement ceremony in the Dome.
2020 SU graduates share a moment during Sunday's Commencement ceremony in the Dome.

In his short greeting, Chancellor and President Kent Syverud said this ceremony was “finally and properly honoring the class of 2020.” He emphasized the importance of family and friends through struggles.

“You know who you can count on when the world turns upside down,” he said.

University Scholar Serena Omo-Lamai said she never thought she would be “delivering my speech a year and a half after I wrote it.” The bioengineering major from Lagos, Nigeria also introduced a short video highlighting the effect of the pandemic on SU’s students.

2020 SU graduates pose before the September 19, 2021 Commencement ceremony in the Dome on September 19th, 2021.
2020 SU graduates pose for a picture after the ceremony on Sunday.

New York State’s first female governor and SU graduate Kathy Hochul ‘80 delivered the Commencement address. She graduated from the College of Arts and Sciences and Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs.

“Yes, you’ve heard the words endurance and perseverance,” Gov. Hochul said to the graduates. “Today, they may just be words, but they’re part of your soul now. Because whenever things get tough, you say, ‘yeah, but I got through the pandemic. I got this.’”

The ceremony also recognized Daniel A. D’Aniello and Kevin Richardson with honorary degrees. D’Aniello, for his work in global business and philanthropy, and Richardson for his work in criminal justice reform.

A 2020 SU graduate sits before the September 19, 2021 Commencement ceremony in the Dome on September 19th, 2021a.
A 2020 SU graduate eagerly waits before the Commencement on Sunday.
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is a digital producer for The NewsHouse as well as a journalist, critic, and writer.