March 23, 2020

Dear Seniors,

I write to let you know that we have decided very reluctantly that an in-person Commencement ceremony will have to be postponed. We all regret the delay, made necessary by the destructive pandemic affecting people across the globe.

The senior events leading up to Commencement at Amherst and the ceremony itself are longstanding and glorious traditions. There are few events more beautiful or moving than the outdoor Commencement on our first-year quad. I love anticipating the seniors approaching from the top of Memorial Hill with the Holyoke Range in the background, families and friends gathered on the quad eagerly waiting to see you walk across the stage and receive your diploma. I love the music that brings the gathering alive, the flags of all the countries from which you hail, and the sheriff bringing us to order as only he can. We will find the best time and the right way to make a meaningful Commencement happen for you.

I told those of you who attended the informal senior gathering before spring break that we would bring you back to Amherst at a later point and we will. One of you suggested that you walk with the Class of ’21 during the College’s bicentennial year. Others have wondered whether Homecoming ’20 would be the best time for an in-person ceremony. I have also been asked about the possibility of a virtual event of some kind on May 24, in advance of an in-person ceremony next year. We look forward to hearing your ideas and consulting you about your favorites. Our events team will email you later this week to solicit your thoughts and answer your follow-up questions. We continue to receive gifts from alumni and parents eager to help ensure that everyone can afford to return for an in-person event.

Today you will have started the remote learning that our faculty has been hard at work preparing for you. While we all would much prefer to finish the term with an in-person classroom and residential experience, I know you will learn from your interactions with your faculty and one another, whatever form they take, as well as from the course content, however it is delivered. I would love to hear your observations and reflections on the experience, if you can make time to write them up and send them.

Until we see one another again, face to face, or you receive another email from me, please do everything you can to stay safe and well.