A student sports a Spongebob-themed graduation cap as he watches the commencement ceremony with his peers
Jeremy Gasowski
Pomp, in Spite of the Circumstance
UNH celebrates the classes of 2020 and 2021

erseverance. Resilience. Agility. Grit.

Over the course of two weekends and eight ceremonies, UNH celebrated the commencement of undergraduate and graduate students from the classes of 2020 and 2021 in Durham, Manchester and Concord, citing at each one the deep reserves of determination and resourcefulness students had brought to bear during a most unusual 15-plus months.

By breaking the traditional university-wide ceremony into separate events for each college and the class of 2020 and by limiting attendance for each graduate to two guests, UNH was able to offer what few other schools could this spring: safe, in-person ceremonies for its graduating students. “Because of the way you all worked together to stay safe and healthy, UNH is one of the very few universities in New England where you are gathered for in-person commencement this year,” noted President James W. Dean Jr., speaking to students in Wildcat Stadium, where socially distanced seats and masks complemented the traditional robes and artfully decorated mortar boards. “Thank you to everyone who made that possible.”

The ceremonies featured remarks from each college’s dean as well as commencement speaker and CNN host journalist Wolf Blitzer, whose observations about the uncertainties graduates face heading into the real world at this particular point in history were punctuated by welcome doses of humor — including the confirmation that “Wolf” is indeed his real first name. And if the smaller ceremonies didn’t lend themselves to quite the same level of celebratory noise as past years’ commencements, they did offer one meaningful upside: because each ceremony included fewer than 800 graduates, every student had their name read out loud, walked across the stage, and received their diploma from their dean.

“It was a wonderful way to celebrate our students, who had to navigate myriad challenges, COVID-19 related and otherwise, during the past year plus,” says Dean, who presided over the six Durham-based ceremonies. “Commencement ceremonies always remind me why it is an honor to work in higher education, and these were no exception.”

— Kristin Waterfield Duisberg