May 5, 2021

Plans for the Class of 2020 Commencement


Dear Members of the Class of 2020,

Over a year ago, I promised you that while the pandemic might force us to postpone the Class of 2020 Commencement ceremony, this important celebration would not be cancelled. It was my sincere hope that we would be able to honor the Class of 2020 during Commencement and Reunion Weekend this May. Unfortunately, public health conditions and the State of Rhode Island’s limits on gathering sizes made it impossible to host the double Commencement that we originally envisioned.

Regardless, I stand by my promise. The health crisis that prompted your rapid departure from campus over a year ago — with little time to say goodbye to dear friends — was heartbreaking. I want nothing more than to see you back on College Hill. Fortunately, the public health situation has improved enough that we can now plan with confidence for a celebration that brings your class together and reflects the magnitude of your achievements.

I am writing to seek your input in planning Commencement for the Class of 2020. Since I last wrote to you in January, some members of your class have provided feedback on how to shape this celebration. So far, we’ve seen a strong preference for a Commencement ceremony over Memorial Day Weekend in May 2022. That option has a number of advantages, which I describe more fully below. However, this is not the only option, and we want to ensure that our planning considers the input of the entire Class of 2020.

Next week, we will send you a survey that will ask if you would prefer a Class of 2020 Commencement ceremony in the fall — over a weekend, likely between late-September to mid-October — or on Memorial Day Weekend, May 27-29, 2022. Because we want the highest possible attendance, and we recognize that many of you will be unable to travel to Providence multiple times during the upcoming year, we will select the option that has the most support from members of your class.

Both options have advantages. The fall date would let you be together sooner, and we would be able to focus exclusively on the Class of 2020. We would engage members of your class in developing the activities you would most enjoy — concerts, parties and opportunities to reconnect with faculty and other Brown employees who supported and inspired you at Brown. We expect that, by the fall, public health conditions will allow most, if not all, types of gatherings to take place.

If we wait until Memorial Day, your celebration will also include the Commencement and Reunion Weekend traditions that are impossible to replicate at other times, namely Campus Dance and the full Commencement procession through the Van Wickle Gates. We expect that public health conditions will have further improved by this time. However, this option means waiting even longer to be together.

Regardless of the timing, we will hold a dedicated Class of 2020 Commencement ceremony, complete with senior orations from members of the Class of 2020, alumni speakers, and a march through the Van Wickle Gates. Under either option, we expect that health conditions will have improved significantly to allow you to invite at least a few guests to attend the ceremony in-person. We are eager to learn what you prefer, so please complete the survey as soon as you receive it next week.

In addition to planning Commencement 2020, I have asked Alumni Relations to plan a number of regional events over the 2021-2022 academic year just for the Class of 2020, with both in-person and virtual elements so that everyone can participate. Again, we will involve members of your class in planning these events so that the program reflects your interests. Further information will be forthcoming from Alumni Relations.

Commencement is such a special part of the Brown tradition. While I’m saddened that your experience has been delayed longer than any of us would have liked, I hope you are as excited as I am at the prospect of your return to College Hill. I look forward to seeing all of you on campus again for what just might be the most highly anticipated and enthusiastic celebration ever seen at Brown.


Christina H. Paxson