Bryn Athyn College was proud to be able to celebrate the graduating class of 2020 in a commencement ceremony on November 14th, 2020. Though five months later than originally anticipated due to restrictions from the pandemic, the long-awaited day was no less joyful. Even the beautiful sunshine and fall foliage were in attendance to honor the 55 graduates, 39 of which were present to accept their diplomas. Said graduate Hannah Dewees, “Well, I never would have thought to be ‘graduating’ in November, but I am excited to see old classmates again to reconnect and celebrate our accomplishments!”

This 143rd commencement ceremony was held with great care for the physical safety of all who attended. Seating for the graduates and their family and friends adhered to social-distancing protocols and masks were worn by all who attended. The size of the audience was limited on campus with a livestream video of the event provided for those who could not physically be there. This did not impede the jubilation, however. “This class has demonstrated remarkable resilience, patience and determination to complete their degrees and celebrate their graduation in the midst of restricted socialization and engagement with their fellow graduates,” remarked President Blair. Each graduate, both in person and in absentia, were honored with cheers from their classmates and a joyous applause.

Beginning with the traditional worship service by Chancellor Peter Buss, Jr. and Chaplain Grant Schnarr, the theme of fortitude and courage quickly established itself in the ceremony. The commencement address was given by Brian Henderson, former Dean and History professor at the College, and current Director of Glencairn Museum. Offering reflections on his own experiences at Bryn Athyn College, speaker Henderson also acknowledged the adversity this class has faced. “Life will continue to present moments of uncertainty, moments when all we had expected and all we had planned for are challenged. In these moments I encourage you to look within yourself, to the foundation you have built during your time here through the knowledges and skills gained, the new concepts and perspectives you have confronted and embraced the spiritual values you have committed to during your time as part of this Bryn Athyn community, and to your relationship with the Lord…. What you have built during your time here, both the foundation within you and the community of good, caring people that you have built are now a part of you, to be forever taken with you as you continue to grow and move forward in your life.”

Graduate Zachary Brock offered the valedictorian address, noting that the strength of his class lay in the diversity of their personalities and backgrounds and their similarities of wanting to improve the world around them, “We learned that many of us are here today so that we can go out into the world and help other people. Whether it’s through nursing, teaching, counseling, rehabilitating, or ‘business-ing’, we’re a class that wants to make a difference in other people’s lives.”

A virtual celebration was held at the end of the previous academic year on May 29th, commending each graduate on their achievements and acknowledging this pivotal milestone. Many graduates still found ways to celebrate in their own homes with their families in the spring. Plans came together to provide a more traditional in person commencement ceremony later in the fall.

When thinking on the class of 2020 and the many challenges they’ve faced, especially at the end of their undergraduate career, President Blair notes that “COVID became a rallying point for them despite the inconveniences and interruptions caused during this difficult time.  They never lost to passion or joy in celebrating their accomplishments and thus inspired us all.”

Watch the full event: