Caps Off to the Class Of 2020

James Arcenas '20 (Contest Winner!)

Bachelor of Science, Risk Management & Insurance

Bachelor of Science, Business Intelligence & Analytics

Christine Torrey '20 (Honorable Mention)

Bachelor of Science, Marketing

Bachelor of Art

Colleen Martin '20 (Honorable Mention)

Bachelor of Science, Biology

Regan Gallagher '20

Bachelor of Science, Sports Marketing

Stephanie Crispell '20

Bachelor of Science, Elementary Education

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The Class of 2020 celebrated its virtual conferral of degrees on May 16. Years of hard work and cherished memories culminated in the online ceremony and celebration for the more than 1,500 graduates. Given the unprecedented circumstance of the COVID-19 pandemic, the University hosted the ceremony online and included a series of tribute videos, speeches, prayers and the reading of graduates’ names.

“Uncertainty, it seems, is all around us in recent weeks,” President Mark C. Reed, Ed.D., told the graduates during the virtual ceremony. “You’ve had to put the skills and lessons you’ve learned on Hawk Hill to the test …. I often tell our students that the education they obtain at Saint Joseph’s isn’t really for them — it’s meant to serve others and the world at large … [and] the world needs your brand of brave, compassionate and able-minded leadership.”

On the day of the ceremony, nearly 1,000 people at any given time, including viewers from overseas, tuned in to watch the virtual degree conferral, which has become a norm in higher education this season.

During the ceremony, Provost Cheryl McConnell, Ph.D., told the graduates that the COVID-19 pandemic isn’t the first time that world affairs have impacted normal operations.

“In September of 1918, World War I forced the suspension of classes when the U.S. government designated Saint Joseph’s as a site for the Students’ Army Training Corps,” McConnell said. “At that same time, the influenza pandemic hit Philadelphia. And now, the Class of 2020 joins the annals of our University’s history as the first class to ever be conferred degrees virtually.”

This year, 1,026 undergraduate and 496 graduate and doctoral students represented the Class of 2020.

“Hats off to the fact that I finished my final semester with a 3.8 and a 3.2 cumulative GPA,” Will Russell ’20, communication studies major, wrote on Instagram prior to the ceremony. “Forever grateful to SJU!” 

To keep Hawks in the celebratory spirit, members of the Class of 2020 received complimentary caps and gowns and were invited to participate in a cap decorating contest. On social media, they were encouraged to share gratitude for individuals who supported them on their Hawk Hill journey, and to vote for their favorite campus eats and study spots.

James McCloskey Jr., ’20, special education major, who was selected as the undergraduate student speaker, noted that while the class is about to go its separate ways, their shared experience will unite them forever.

“Our four years on Hawk Hill may be coming to an end, but that doesn’t mean the Hawk that is alive inside of your heart and mind needs to die,” McCloskey said. “Wherever you go after leaving Hawk Hill, I am confident that you will continue to positively impact your communities just as you have impacted SJU.”

Shane Varughese ’20 (MHA), the selected graduate student speaker, talked about what leadership means to him, and also extended gratitude toward workers who are on the front lines of combating COVID-19.

“Leadership comes from values and so I call on you to build on the values that you have gained here at Saint Joseph’s University and utilize them to lead change…. Show empathy to those around you and succeed through unity ... build lasting relationships, learn from others, and always continue to improve. The journey will always be full of obstacles but … believe in yourself and great things will follow ... we are all leaders, and as we continue on in our careers, remember leadership is in each of us.”