Roanoke College announces May commencement plans for Class of 2020, Class of 2021


SALEM, Va. (WFXR) — Whether they celebrate in-person in Salem or remotely from around the globe, members of Roanoke College’s Classes of 2020 and 2021 will be able to participate in their commencement ceremonies this May.

According to a statement released by Roanoke College on Monday, March 8, teams are in place making multiple plans for virtual or — if conditions permit — in-person May commencement ceremonies.

Gov. Ralph Northam’s most recent executive order limits outdoor gatherings to 25 people amid the coronavirus pandemic, making the college’s traditional commencement and Senior Week events impossible.

Therefore, if the current restrictions remain in place by late May, school officials say the ceremonies will be virtual.

In order to increase the chances for an in-person event in the future, Roanoke College says the Class of 2020 commencement will be rescheduled for Saturday, May 22, regardless of whether the ceremony is remote or face-to-face.

However, the commencement for the Class of 2021 is still scheduled for Saturday, May 29.

If virus conditions improve and Northam does loosen restrictions for colleges and universities, the college plans to hold the in-person ceremonies at the Salem Football Stadium, which enables graduates to be socially distanced on the field and allows each graduate to have up to four guests in attendance.

In addition, regardless of whether the ceremony is held in-person or remotely, school officials say they will provide live online coverage of the ceremony for anyone who cannot attend for any reason. 

“We are excited to recognize each one of you and your accomplishments at Roanoke College,” Monday’s statement said. “You are representing Roanoke College in a historic era and history will reflect that you have dealt with the COVID-19 challenge with strength, determination and grace.”

Members of both the Class of 2020 and the Class of 2021 should receive emails with specific details from the college as the commencement dates draw closer.

In the meantime, school officials say they are planning senior portrait days for the Class of 2021, but they are also asking the Class of 2020 to submit photos to the college to highlight each graduate in case a virtual celebration is necessary.   

“We continue to monitor and plan according to Virginia guidelines regarding large in-person events,” Roanoke College said. “We discourage guests from making any non-refundable travel arrangements and appreciate everyone’s patience and understanding.”

The college plans to share a final decision about in-person ceremonies with the campus community on April 30.

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