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Class of 2021 Celebrates Commencement to Cap Uniquely Historic Academic Year

On Patterson Field, in front of a limited number of guests who were masked and physically distanced—and while a virtual audience tuned in via livestream—the Ursinus College Class of 2021 brought their undergraduate careers to a close on Saturday, May 15, marking the end of an academic year that was challenging, unique, and historic.

“This is a unique moment in time and—in a year marked with such uncertainty—you’ve demonstrated a tremendous amount of fortitude,” President Brock Blomberg said during the ceremony. “I admire you for that. It has not been easy. You’ve navigated a senior year overshadowed by a global pandemic, and our country is faced with social unrest, racial tension, and political divide.”

“But as I look out at each of you, I am filled with optimism and hope,” he said. “I have no doubt that you are equipped to leave this campus and tackle the challenges of the world head-on. Time and again, you’ve demonstrated your resolve and your ability to find creative solutions to problems.”

Last March, the COVID-19 pandemic forced students to return home and learn remotely. In-person instruction returned in the fall of 2020, but the circumstances were different. Students had to adjust to an aggressive weekly testing policy; outdoor classrooms; gathering restrictions; and other residential guidance in order to keep the on-campus community as safe and healthy as possible. But due to a commitment from the entire community to “Defend the Den,” the academic year proved to be successful.

In a commencement speech posted to the Ursinus website, Class of 2021 President Margot Robbins said the pandemic “allowed us to develop skills needed to flourish outside of the Ursinus community, such as flexibility and resiliency.”

In a pre-recorded speech, student speaker Jess Greenburg ’21 spoke of the many Ursinus graduates who paved the way for equality and representation at the institution. “Our ancestors fought so that we could do what they could not: receive an education, vote, and experience greater equality than they did. Today, we have made them proud.”

“Each and every one of us has built on their efforts by learning and living together as a diverse and unified community,” she said, challenging her classmates to ask themselves what they will do to better their futures and create a world that is empathetic and just for all people.

Award-winning author Min Jin Lee, an acclaimed novelist known for her deeply impactful portrayals of immigration, prejudice and self-discovery, virtually addressed the classes of 2020 and 2021 during commencement weekend.

In her remarks, Lee said, “For 15 months … you and I have endured many puzzling trials and challenges brought by the pandemic. This is our extraordinary event that you and I have shared together. And what I can say from my vantage point, and from having considered the four questions that I didn’t have the privilege of learning at Ursinus, but from life itself … is that I know that you Ursinus graduates … are 100 percent prepared for all of the beauty and the challenges ahead. And I want you to know that I’m pleased for you and I am proud of you.”

Lee, the author of Pachinko, was presented with an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters.

“When you leave Ursinus, ask yourself what matters most to you. Seek out ways to live together with understanding, not bias. Think about how your actions impact others on the broadest possible scale. And challenge yourself when you ask What will I do?” Blomberg said.

Click here to view a recording of the ceremony.