Oberlin College will host virtual commencement celebrations to recognize the Class of 2020 for their academic achievements and contributions to the college and community.
Update: The 2020 Commencement Program is now available for download as an accessible PDF.
Class of 2020 Commencement Program
Oberlin College invites graduating seniors, their parents, family members, alumni, and friends to participate in our virtual Commencement celebrations, an opportunity to celebrate the Class of 2020 in a public and uniquely Oberlin way. Highlights include:
Monday, May 25
To mark Commencement day, Monday, May 25, we will honor our graduates with a virtual celebration featuring President Ambar and Board of Trustees Chair T. Chris Canavan '84. We will also release the Class of 2020 Time Capsule & Virtual Yearbook. This event will be prerecorded and posted here at oberlin.edu/commencement at 10 a.m. EDT on Monday, May 25. Watch above or visit Commencement 2020 on our Vimeo channel.
Commencement Day Prayer
–a multifaith blessing for the class of 2020–
O' to be able to gather at Tappan Square among friends, families and classmates, taking formation as one under the canopy of trees long attending Oberlin's most sacred moments.
Before there was Oberlin, wisdom keepers first proclaimed that, "as humans-we are born of the Earth, nourished by the Earth, and healed by the Earth."[i] We give thanks for the bounty of this good earth-and in this COVID season, we choose the Earth's generosity to meet the hardship and suffering in our day.
Keeping distance, even separated today, we are evermore united, standing where we are, however we might, in ovation for the class of 2020. We see you, individually and as one class. We behold your many achievements. And we say, wow!
In striving to become all you are created to be, you have challenged Oberlin to live to its name that it might be the Oberlin our world so desperately needs.
Your journey here has been marked with exhilarating moments, great joy, and sometimes long, painful nights; early departure and uncertainties, still. In times of clarity and chaos, even in profound loss, you belonged to one another. Marked Obies forever, be assured that the Oberlin you now depart once more is the better for that you came our way.
Looking through corona eyes, we see that no one is spared a sense of absence or loss--a beloved friend, colleague, family member who, on this day, feels far, far away and whose company we sorely miss. We also see the privileges we carry that have helped to buffer us from harm's way. May we remember those who have been impacted by the virus and lift up the many who work tirelessly, serving the most vulnerable among us.
On this day of remembering, we are mindful of the many in our extended family, across generations, who have lived and died for all they believed. We pray for peace.
And, as we travel to our next station, we are all too aware the the division and rancor across this not-so-fair land-where race, class and religion divide as ever before--a nation in search of its soul. May any among us, eager to return to what was, make haste to create anew, addressing head on all that calls for change.
Let us heed the lessons of land stewards before us:
-"In geologic time, to know where the place [Oberlin] is, is not to know where it was...and slightly different from (where) it will be tomorrow.[ii]
-"[W]e are always evolving and eroding, at once...worn down to our essences as we are forced to change our course."[iii]
-"The natural order tells us: I will feed you, I will clothe you, I will shelter you, I will heal you. Only do not so devour me or use me that you destroy my capacity to mediate the divine and the human. I offer gifts that you may exchange with each other."[iv]
May the Great Spirit that is in all things abide in us, taking wonder in all that science confirms. May the spirit rising in Oberlin, the oneness we strive to achieve, abide first in us, bold even in our humility. Swift to forgive, to be forgiven. May the future we choose be rooted in fairness, courage, imagination--and yes, kindness.
With Toni Morrison we declare,"This is precisely the time... There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilization heals."[v] May it be so.
One thing more. May there be joy abundant on this day of all days!
Blessings on the Class of 2020 and the Oberlin family always! May the degrees conferred, relationships formed in Oberlin-prepare us for taking leave of this sacred place, greeting what soon will become. Amen.
David F.H. Dorsey
[i] Thomas Berry, Evening Thoughts (Berkeley: Counterpoint, 2010), 139.
[ii]Thomas Fairchild Sherman, A Place on the Glacial Town: Time, Land, and Nature within an American Town (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997), 28.
[iii] Terry Tempest Williams, Erosion: Essays of Undoing (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2019), 20.
[iv] Berry, 139.
[v] Toni Morrison, "No Place for Self-Pity, No Room for Fear," The Nation 300, no.14 (April 6, 2015): 184.
Sunday, May 24
Crimson and Gold Convocation featuring President Carmen Twillie Ambar
President Ambar will give her state-of-the-college address “The Certainty of Oberlin.” This will be prerecorded and posted at 10:30 a.m. EDT on Sunday, May 24. To watch, visit State of the College Address 2020.
The Office of Religious and Spiritual Life will host a virtual Baccalaureate Ceremony beginning at 1 p.m. EDT on Sunday, May 24. “On Parting Again: Saying Goodbye During the Coronavirus Pandemic,” features a student panel representing different faith traditions. Panelists will include Nathan Carpenter (nonreligious), Madeleine Gefke (Christian), Noa Gordon-Guterman (Jewish), Lyala Khan (pluralist), and Kenneth Kitahata (Buddhist). Rising-senior Ivy Miller will facilitate. President Ambar will offer a welcome; music will be provided by violinist Riley Calcagno, who performs both classical and roots music. Watch above or visit Baccalaureate 2020 on our Vimeo channel.
Senior Week & Commencement Celebrations
Academic departments and offices will offer students opportunities to attend virtual events during Senior Week, May 17-23. Activities range from academic open houses to readings, and virtual games to recognition programs. If you would like to attend any of these events and have not received an invite, please reach out to the contact person indicated by each event. Senior Week is the precursor to this year’s Commencement Experience on May 25.
Senior Class Gift
The class of 2020 is raising money to help make Oberlin more financially accessible for all students. Join us by making a gift to student scholarships, or any other fund, department, or organization on campus today!
Seniors who donate a total of $20 before the end of the academic year—or make a recurring gift for $5 quarterly—will receive a Philanthropy Cord! To make a one-time or recurring gift, please go to advance.oberlin.edu/donate today!
If you'd like to learn more or to check out the campaign totals for the Senior Class Gift, please go to givecampus.com/schools/OberlinCollege/senior-class-gift.
Class of 2020 Parent and Family Tributes
Oberlin College is delighted to recognize the parents and family members of the Class of 2020 who have made special gifts to celebrate their students’ achievement and support the college for the benefit of all.
Please view our honor roll for an alphabetical listing of parent and family donors. We will continue to display and periodically update this list through the on-campus joint Commencement event in May 2021. To make a gift, visit go.oberlin.edu/parents . Please indicate the name of your student in the “Comments” box.
Please use our “yard sign” as a symbol of our appreciation. Thank you for the many ways you support Oberlin!
Congratulatory Messages to the Class of 2020
We are pleased to share congratulatory messages from parents and family members to the Oberlin College Class of 2020!
Alumni: Celebrate the Class of 2020
We invite all alumni to join us in celebrating Oberlin graduates and honoring the Class of 2020. We are proud of their accomplishments and want to send them best wishes as they virtually cross the stage and take their Oberlin education into the world.