Georgetown University in Qatar’s (GU-Q) Class of 2020 and 2021 celebrated commencement following two years of postponements due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
GU-Q Dean Clyde Wilcox officiated the event May 11 as part of the school’s “Celebration of Graduates” ceremony at the Regency Katara Halls in Doha. 57 graduates of the Class of 2020 and 74 graduates of the Class of 2021 joined together for in-person festivities honoring their graduations. Georgetown University President Georgetown John J. DeGioia (CAS ’79, GRD ’95) also attended and spoke at the ceremony.
Wilcox said prioritizing student input was essential for planning a ceremony that best honored the graduates.
“The graduating classes of 2020 and 2021 missed out on many things, including a graduation ceremony,” Wilcox wrote to The Hoya. “When we contacted the alumni and asked what kind of event they would like to have now that COVID protocols permitted — a celebration of graduations that was very much like an ordinary graduation, or some kind of other event, the vote was very strongly in favor of a graduation type event.”
The ceremony allowed students to reunite with peers and faculty they had not seen since March 2020 and to receive official acknowledgement of their graduation, according to Wilcox.
“It was a lovely ceremony and the students were very happy to participate. I was able to see many of my former students and meet their parents,” Wilcox wrote. “Of course, many students who had gone home to other countries did not return, but we had a high turnout overall.”
Edward Kolla, an associate professor of history at GU-Q who served as the faculty marshal of the celebration’s academic procession, said he felt grateful for the opportunity to catch up with past students and send them off with a proper goodbye.
“I’m really happy we finally got to recognize the grads from those 2 years,” Kolla wrote to The Hoya. “I felt really bad for them, missing out on all the usual celebrations that go with Commencement, because of the pandemic. To have so many former students all together was therefore a real joy.”
GU-Q Senior Associate Dean for Academic Affairs Vicky Kynourgiopoulou said she was honored to act as chief marshal of the academic procession and help keep the university’s promise to graduates of a proper commencement ceremony.
“The Celebration of Graduates event fulfilled our commitment to the alumni of the Classes of 2020 and 2021,” Kynourgiopoulou wrote to The Hoya. “During the previous two years the strict health regulations did not allow for in-person commencement exercises and so it was especially moving for us to come together as a community and celebrate the achievements of our outstanding graduates this year”
Each graduate was invited on stage to take pictures with university leadership, while DeGioia delivered a speech to the two classes. DeGioia addressed the unique history and values of Georgetown as a Catholic and Jesuit institution and how these principles influence the character of its graduates.
DeGioia said that despite the ways the COVID-19 pandemic made students’ lives more challenging and frustrating, it has also made them stronger and more resilient.
“For 28 months, we have been responding to a global pandemic that has forced us to alter many of the ways that we live our daily lives,” DeGioia said in his speech. “You handled the challenges of these past years — the uncertainty, the heartaches and disappointments, the challenge of reimagining community — with grace and humility and compassion. You accepted the responsibilities placed on you.”
DeGioia acknowledged the ways in which these students have already embodied Georgetown’s values upon graduating from the program and utilizing this ceremony as an opportunity to celebrate these achievements.
“When you first joined our community you entered into our way of life animated by our spirit of engagement and service as Georgetown graduates,” DeGioia said. “You have now already brought this way of life with you into the world.”