The University of Wisconsin shared a virtual commencement video to celebrate graduation for the Class of 2020 that featured messages from Chancellor Rebecca Blank and acclaimed author James Patterson. 

The virtual commencement ceremony took the place of an in-person ceremony, which UW didn’t hold over COVID-19 concerns. Blank said the university will hold an in-person ceremony on campus for graduates and their families once it is safe to gather in large groups. 

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“When the coronavirus forced us to close the campus, [the Class of 2020] persevered,” Blank said. “You adapted quickly to online learning and to a world where we all stayed indoors while watching spring arrive outside.” 

According to University Communications, over 6,241 undergraduate students received degrees and 2,219 students earned graduate degrees at the ceremony. Blank said UW administrators and staff are proud and inspired by the students who earned their degrees even when they couldn’t do live presentations and events like live performances could not take place.

Many members of the class of 2020 will join the frontlines in a variety of ways to help fight the coronavirus, Blank said. Blank said she is proud of all of their contributions during this crisis.

“I’m not going to sugar coat the challenges,” Blank said. “But when we are past this crisis you will also see some new opportunities … our world will change permanently because of this global shared experience. Your diploma from the University of Wisconsin is your ticket to be a part of that change.”

In his speech as the keynote speaker, Patterson said worrying and complaining during this time will not help, but encouraged the class of 2020 to keep fighting through tough times. 

Though it may be difficult to find jobs during this time, Patterson said persistence and dedication will help new graduates to be successful.

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Patterson spoke about his experience with a former girlfriend who learned she only had a year to live. Patterson said she learned how to enjoy the time she had and encouraged the class of 2020 to live each day as if it were their last. 

“There’s never been a better time to make use of everything you learned in school,” Patterson said. “You are the best and you are the brightest. Go you beautiful Badgers … and remember this — no one will ever forget the class of 2020.” 

Additionally, as part of the ceremony deans from UW schools and colleges also presented the candidates for PhDs and Master’s degrees.