Class of 2020 graduates submitted portraits for this artwork created by Jon Styer '07 in honor of their graduation. A poster will be mailed to each graduate with their diploma later this month.

Class of 2020 grads celebrate May milestone

“Happy what-should-have-been graduation day,” wrote Eastern Mennonite University senior Heidi Grossnickle, dressed in cap and gown, in an Instagram caption to a photo that captured the bittersweet sentiments of a beautiful spring day. 

Still, in this time of economic uncertainty and social distancing, graduates celebrated where they were, with family and friends through phone calls or in community through virtual means. For Jasmine Johnson, her master’s degree was the culmination of six years of work.

“God did it!” Jenna Emswiler, a senior nursing graduate, gave thanks to faith, family and friends who helped her through the challenges of the past four years, and shared the news of a new job.

This was neither the end of the semester we anticipated nor the graduation we expected, but it is the semester we have completed and the graduation we celebrate, said Dean David Brubaker on Sunday, May 3, to a virtual gathering of peacebuilding graduate students that included David Nyiringabo.

In his Facebook post, the Congolese native draped a stole with the colors of his country across his shoulders and stood in front of a campus sculpture dedicated, like he is, to nonviolence.

“Mission Accomplished!” he wrote.

Despite the rescheduling of EMU’s 102nd Commencement to fall 2020, Sunday marked a personal milestone for 300 undergraduates and nearly 125 graduate students. (EMU was set to confer a total of 429 degrees, the breakdown of which doesn’t account for dual-degree-earners.)

The ceremony would also have had historic implications: the university’s first graduates of its undergraduate engineering program and its first doctoral degree recipients, in the Doctor of Nursing Practice program, were slated to be celebrated.

At least one celebration is still to happen this week: EMU at Lancaster is planning a separate virtual commencement event on the originally scheduled date and time of Friday, May 8, 2020, at 7 p.m. Visit the Lancaster Commencement page for updated information.

Disrupted by a global pandemic and scattered away from campus, our community has persisted with time-honored, much beloved rituals of community recognition and also pushed creatively into new digital spaces to share the love for the Class of 2020. 

These efforts included video greetings from some departments to their graduates. Here’s a compilation: 

President Susan Schultz Huxman also sent well-wishes for weekend celebrations (thanks to her camera crew, son Connor, and post-production by husband Jesse).

Showing the Love

Here’s a few more ways the Class of 2020 was recognized:

Updates to EMU’s Commencement plans will be posted at Stay tuned!