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La Salle University’s Class of 2020 made history.
Livestreamed Saturday, May 9, a virtual celebration of the nearly 1,600 graduating students marked the first time in the University’s 157-year history that La Salle conferred degrees to an entire graduating class through a manner other than an in-person ceremony.
Like countless universities across the country, La Salle moved to a remote-instruction model in March in response to the global COVID-19 pandemic. The operational decision prompted this year’s graduating students to complete their programs away from the University’s Northwest Philadelphia campus.
“It should go without saying that this has been an unprecedented semester,” University President Colleen M. Hanycz, Ph.D., told the graduating students via livestream. “Your patience has been challenged. Your mettle has been tested. And each of you has responded. The determination and resilience you have displayed is amazing. … That’s why your class deserves to mark this milestone on this day, an opportunity for your families and all of us to celebrate your academic journeys at La Salle.”
Dr. Hanycz reiterated her intent to reschedule Commencement for this graduating class when it is once again safe to gather in person and in large numbers.
La Salle’s Class of 2020 featured students across undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral levels. Viewed by several thousand families, students, alumni, and friends of the University, the virtual celebration streamed simultaneously through La Salle’s website and its Facebook account.
The virtual celebration, a first of its kind for the University, featured remarks from several members of La Salle’s Executive Cabinet: Dawn M. Soufleris, Ph.D., Vice President for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management; Lynne A. Texter, Ph.D., Interim Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs; and Ernest J. Miller, FSC, D.Min., Vice President for Mission.
Taylor Kauffman, ’20, spoke on behalf of her fellow graduates. Kauffman, a Lebanon, Pa., native and a student in the University Honors Program, majored in accounting. She said her La Salle experience “challenged my preconceived notions and ingrained beliefs” and made her “more comfortable discussing uncomfortable topics and began thinking about issues larger than myself and my experiences.”
“La Salle recognizes that the teaching of young minds teeming with potential is a holistic process that goes beyond textbooks and PowerPoints,” said Kauffman, who will attend law school in the fall. “It takes students around the globe and back to study and learn different cultures, religions, and languages, to volunteer and advocate for the most marginalized in our society, and to intern or work for the most prestigious organizations and leaders in the world.”
University Trustee Mike Hallowell, ’86, welcomed Kauffmann and her fellow graduates into the La Salle Alumni Association, for which Hallowell serves as president.
Video montages bookended the celebration. Nearly 100 students in the graduating class submitted congratulatory and thankful messages filled with favorite memories. And dozens of faculty, staff, Christian Brothers, and alumni imparted words of encouragement to the Class of 2020.
“You have dedicated yourselves to excellence,” Dr. Hanycz told the graduates, “whether you pursued a graduate degree while working full-time with family responsibilities, completed an internship or two, or balanced your studies with membership on a Division I sports team or leadership in an Greek organization or other student club, or committed yourself to study abroad or one or more of our L.I.V.E. programs. No matter the route you took, it has led you here to today’s celebration.”
—Christopher A. Vito