Barring another pandemic-induced change of schedule, the university plans to host back-to-back Commencements next spring with a quirk sure to entertain Cornell trivia buffs for years to come: The Class of 2021 will walk before the Class of 2020.
The tentative plans were included in President Martha E. Pollack’s June 30 message announcing Cornell’s intent to reactivate its Ithaca campus for residential instruction this fall, after instituting a robust testing program and behavioral requirements to protect public health.
Under the revised academic calendar for 2020-21, students would start fall classes Sept. 2, then return home before Thanksgiving break to finish the term online. The spring term would start Feb. 9 and end May 25.
“Pending the progression of the pandemic,” Pollack said, dates for the Class of 2021’s Commencement over Memorial Day weekend would not change. The May 29-30 ceremonies would, however, be expanded to include December 2020 graduates.
The following weekend would celebrate the Class of 2020, whose on-campus Commencement – which had been scheduled for this past Memorial Day weekend – was postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Pollack and the academic deans instead congratulated those nearly 6,000 graduates in a video message May 23, promising they would have an opportunity to celebrate in Ithaca in caps and gowns “as soon as we responsibly can.”
“Throughout the unprecedented events of these past months, as our community’s lives and expectations have been upended, reshaped and upended again, our hearts have been most of all with you: our graduating seniors,” Pollack said then.
Plans now call for the postponed Commencement ceremony to be held in conjunction with a special joint “fifth” reunion weekend, June 3-6, for the Classes of 2015 and 2016. Other classes scheduled for reunions next year will gather June 10-13.
The university hosted a virtual reunion for all Cornellians earlier this month.
As Pollack noted in May, the Class of 2020 will forever hold a place in Cornell history. A year later, it could further that legacy as the first class to celebrate Commencement after the class behind it.