You have heard from me many times in the past few days, and I wish that today I were writing with better news. In light of the rapid spread of COVID-19 and the latest public health advisories on travel and large gatherings, we have made the very difficult but necessary decision to postpone commencement for the Class of 2020, including departmental ceremonies and other associated events.
I know firsthand that commencement is one of the highlights of the Duke experience—an uplifting and inspiring celebration of our graduates and their accomplishments, and a memorable occasion in the life of our great university. I also know how disappointing this turn of events will be for you and your families, at a time when we are all sadly engulfed in disappointing and disheartening news.
Over the next few months, we will face unprecedented disruptions—both as a university community and in our personal and professional lives. These circumstances will be particularly distressing for the Class of 2020, who have been robbed of your final few months with classmates and friends at Duke. I share your disappointment—and sadness—that our campus will remain quiet this spring, without the joyful celebration that marks the passage of another year.
For all of these reasons, I am resolutely committed to an in-person recognition of the Class of 2020. Commencement will surely take place, and here on campus. And while we are still in the early stages of exploring possible dates and details of this ceremony, rest assured that it will reflect the indelible mark that this class has left on Duke. We also plan to send your diplomas later this spring–more information will be coming in the days ahead.
In the meantime, I am very pleased to report that Ken Jeong (T ’90), who was to deliver the commencement address on May 10, has generously agreed to work with us on an online celebration to mark that moment—albeit remotely—while we await the opportunity to assemble with him in person.
Also, in the meantime, I hope you will take care of yourselves and those around you, by heeding the advice we are all receiving about practicing social distancing and regular hand washing—while at the same time carving out time for a walk or a hike, or a good book, and plenty of rest. We’ll get through this, together.
Thank you again for your understanding and support in these most unusual times. I am proud to be a member of the extraordinary Duke community, and particularly proud of our Class of 2020 as you rise to the challenge of completing your courses of study in the coming weeks. My very best wishes to you all.