This past Saturday May 23rd, 2020 at 10:30 in the morning, the Santa Fe campus of St. John’s College held its first-ever online commencement. The ceremony began promptly at 10:30am with a live stream from the Ault Evers room in the Meem Library. From that location, Mr. Roosevelt welcomed the students, the faculty, and the staff, and recognized the unusual circumstances of this year’s commencement, a result of precautions taken to help contain the spread of the COVID-19 virus. He spoke briefly about the unique challenges and uncertainties of the day and time, and the future obstacles that will come as their consequence.
Mr. Roosevelt commended the students for their hard work in completing a demanding program under demanding conditions and assured them that those who graduate from St. John’s are the kind who can rise to occasions such as these. He finished by quoting British historian Kenneth Clark,
“I believe that order is better than chaos, creation better than destruction. I prefer gentleness to violence, forgiveness to vendetta. On the whole, I think that knowledge is preferable to ignorance, and I am sure that human sympathy is more valuable than ideology.”
The ceremony then stopped the live stream from the library and directed attendees to a link containing a speech from New Mexico senator Tom Udall and a pre-recorded conferral of degrees by Dean Walter Sterling and Associate Dean of Graduate Programs David McDonald. Each student was presented with a slide containing their name. Some submitted pictures of themselves or short videos thanking their classmates and the school. 74 undergraduate students and 16 graduate students were conferred degrees.
The live stream resumed from the Meem Library exactly at 11:30am, where Mr. Roosevelt, Mr. Sterling, and Mr. McDonald offered closing remarks, thanking the students for their hard work, strength of character, and patience under duress as the school and the world responds to a growing health crisis. These students have performed admirably, and, while an online ceremony can never replace the sense of camaraderie and completion as one in person on the campus where they studied, we hope.
A similar ceremony happened on the Annapolis campus on Sunday, May 10, which can be streamed on the college’s Youtube channel. Watch Margaret Kirby’s Commencement Address, and the Recognition of Degree Candidates.