IU awarded 9,714 degrees to students May 8 from 103 countries and all 50 states during the in-person undergraduate commencement ceremony.
Attendance at the ceremony was limited to faculty and IU graduates from the classes of 2020 and 2021, but was live streamed on IU’s Facebook page for family and friends to watch. Those in attendance were wearing masks. The youngest graduate was 20 and the oldest was 74.
IU Provost Lauren Robel, who is stepping down from her position as IU-Bloomington provost and IU executive vice president in June, spoke about how skeptics thought students were incapable of staying safe during the pandemic.
“And yet, here you sit, in your caps and gowns on the cusp of moving your tassels from right to left,” she said. “Why? Because the skeptics underestimated you. They underestimated us and they completely missed what was at stake.”
She thanked students for their efforts to keep campus safe by getting tested and acknowledged that students sacrificed a lot over the past year. She commended the students for their persistence in helping others during the pandemic, whether by helping other students through jobs on campus or volunteering for the community.
“Overwhelmingly and fiercely and courageously you demonstrated grit and resilience and character,” she said.
IU President Michael McRobbie awarded Robel the University Medal, which he said has only been awarded to 19 others in IU history.
This was the 129th commencement ceremony McRobbie has presided over and will be his last before he steps down from his position. Robel awarded McRobbie an honorary Doctor of Science degree. In his speech, McRobbie congratulated the class of 2021 and thanked them for their efforts to keep campus safe.
“Despite the enormous challenges and disruptions caused by the pandemic, you remained dedicated to your studies and steadfast in adjusting to all public health measures needed to help fight the pandemic, with a combination of courage, resilience and an unwavering concern for others,” he said.
The classes of 2020 and 2021 have been affected greatly by the pandemic, student speaker Jason Wang said. Wang graduated with degrees in finance from the Kelley School of Business and computer science from the Luddy School of Informatics, Computing and Engineering.
“Perhaps the least specific, yet most important thing we missed, was the victory lap of tailgates, dinners, kickbacks and conversations we had all planned to celebrate the completion of an incredible four years,” he said.
Wang said the silver lining in the hardships of the past year was seeing the persistence and grit of the Hoosier spirit. As someone from New York, Wang said he finally understood what it meant to be a Hoosier. Hoosiers are those who are willing to put the needs of others first, he said.
“This will not be the last time that we, as people, will be tested. We will never be fully immune to failure, loss, trials and tribulations,” Wang said. “But without a shadow of a doubt, I know that when the time comes, we will have the endurance necessary to rise above these struggles together as peers.”