Smith, HCC plan virtual commencements, future celebrations

  • A graduating student celebrates at the Holyoke Community College class of 2019 commencement ceremony. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO/HOLYOKE COMMUNITY COLLEGE

  • Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) speaks outside her office on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. on Monday, March 23, 2020.  ANDREW HARNIK/Pool via CNP/ABACA PRESS/TNS

Staff Writer
Published: 4/15/2020 10:32:05 AM

NORTHAMPTON — Smith College and Holyoke Community College have announced plans for their virtual commencement ceremonies this summer, in addition to in-person ceremonies at a later date.

Though graduating students will not experience the traditional celebration of walking across the stage this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the colleges have promised celebrations to remember as students await an in-person ceremony. At Smith, this will include a remote appearance by Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Pelosi was originally slated to visit campus in May to address the class of 2020. The virtual ceremony will be held on May 17 at noon, the same time and date as originally planned.

Smith also announced that an additional, in-person event celebrating this year's graduating class will be held on campus, with a date set to be determined in the 2020-2021 academic year.

 “Although extraordinary circumstances prevent us from gathering in person this year,” Smith president Kathleen McCartney wrote in an email to students, “they will not preclude the rightful recognition of your accomplishments.

“Extraordinary circumstances require an extraordinary celebration, and so it shall be,” she added. “The Smith community will cheer with pride from every corner of the world.”

Students had previously petitioned for an in-person ceremony after the college announced that the ceremony would be canceled and held virtually, though a college spokeswoman responded that the college had always intended to celebrate the class of 2020 on campus as well.

In an email to students, Holyoke Community College president Christina Royal promised “an epic celebration” for the virtual ceremony, which will be held at a yet-to-be-determined date in August.

The in-person ceremony will be held in conjunction with the class of 2021 commencement at the MassMutual Center.

Holyoke Community College’s virtual ceremony in August will come “complete with special remarks, honors and recognition of graduates,” according to Royal. Students will also receive “a special surprise package” over the summer.

“Your perseverance toward graduation in these unprecedented times deserves to be celebrated in every way possible,” she said, commending students for their “strength and resilience.” 

Jacquelyn Voghel can be reached at


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