Champlain College Celebrates 142nd Commencement With Poignant Virtual Ceremonies

Champlain community came together from around the world to celebrate the Class of 2020 virtually.

Champlain College celebrated its 2020 graduates with two virtual commencement ceremonies on Saturday, May 9, 2020: one at 12:00 PM (EDT) for undergraduate students who had been living on campus but who are now spread out across the country, and one at 3:00 PM (EDT) for online undergraduate and master’s students who also tuned in from places near and far. The originally scheduled in-person celebration had been canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Champlain will be hosting an in-person ceremony in the coming year, and plans for that celebration will be shared in the months ahead.

The virtual ceremonies saw more than 1,700 connections made to the livestream. Families tuned in from living rooms and kitchens across the country to watch faculty and graduates give poignant and inspirational speeches—some previously recorded, others broadcast live. Both virtual commencements were hosted on a dedicated website at and featured videos of student speakers, students saying goodbye to Champlain, students speaking about what they dared to do over the last four years, faculty clapping and smiling for the class of 2020, and diploma ceremonies with the graduating students’ names being called by each college division. 

Faculty sent in videos of themselves dressed in regalia clapping and cheering on the Class of 2020 graduates.

The ceremony kicked off with a virtual performance of the national anthem by Champlain’s a cappella group, Purposeful Dissonance. Graduates were then welcomed “back” to campus by Interim President Dr. Laurie Quinn, who spoke from the top-floor terrace of the Miller Information Commons building where students could see campus, Burlington, and Lake Champlain behind her in the distance. 

“We miss you, and this is not what any of us thought May 9th would look like,” said Dr. Quinn to graduates and families. “It’s hard for us to not see your faces as we celebrate here today, but wherever you are across the country, I hope that you are celebrating in the ways that are possible for you right now. I hope that you will walk across your front porch. I hope that you will walk across your kitchen. I hope that you will take a moment to make this day special.”

Interim President Dr. Laurie Quinn spoke to graduates from the top-floor terrace of Champlain’s library, the Miller Information Commons.

Student speaker, Absa Samba, ‘20 // Social Work, an international student from The Gambia who is a committed advocate for the advancement of women and minorities, spoke on behalf of her undergraduate class. “Four years ago I came to the United States from The Gambia to get a college degree. In my community, attending university was not the norm, especially not for girls…But mine is not a feel-sorry-for-yourself speech. Mine is a story of hope and inspiration,” said Samba. “My generation has learned to channel our anger into solutions because these challenges have forced us to be problem solvers, creative thinkers, innovators, and collaborators.” 

Absa Samba, one of the student speakers, presented her speech live from the home in Vermont where she is being hosted during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Samba also acknowledged the challenges that she and her classmates face as they graduate: “We are the only class to not have our loved ones cheering as we step on the stage. But we are also the class who can have all of our loved ones cheering together from the comfort of their homes, and not having to travel hundreds and thousands of miles to see us graduate. So, yes, we graduate today to go out into a world full of challenges and uncertainties, but one thing is certain: my class and my generation has no shortage of what it takes to rise to the challenges, and we will overcome them.” 

We graduate today to go out into a world full of challenges and uncertainties, but one thing is certain: my class and my generation has no shortage of what it takes to rise to the challenges, and we will overcome them.

Absa Samba ’20 // Social Work

Two honorary degrees were conferred during the virtual ceremonies. Chief Don Stevens of the Nulhegan Band of the Coosuk-Abenaki Nation and Jessica Mendoza, two-time Olympian and ESPN MLB analyst, both received Doctors of Humane Letters, Honoris Causa. The honorary degree recipients gave short and uplifting speeches to the graduating classes during the main ceremonies.

Congratulations to the Class of 2020

And that's a wrap! Until we see you in person, of course. Congratulations to the Class of 2020! We hope you enjoyed today's virtual ceremonies and are feeling the Champlain love across the world right now. Cheers to you, #ChampGrad!

Posted by Champlain College on Saturday, May 9, 2020
Graduates turned the tassel on their cap from the right side to the left side to symbolize the change from student to college graduate.

“It was a wonderful graduation ceremony,” said Rebecca Bolduc, parent of a 2020 graduate. “It had just the right amount of levity for the situation while remaining serious enough to bring tears to this mother’s eyes.” Frank Jacovini, parent of another 2020 graduate, agreed: “In retrospect this commencement ceremony will go down as one of the most memorable. Champlain College did a remarkable job. Just watched it over again, and it was even better. Thank You!”

For more information about the 2020 Virtual Commencement and to watch complete recordings of the ceremonies, please visit the dedicated site here.   

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