Members of the Virginia Tech Class of 2020 were granted their degrees in a virtual commencement ceremony held Friday evening.
The ceremony began by revealing the Class of 2020’s Hokie Birds, London Hughes and Charlotte Powell, followed by the Virginia Tech Chamber Singers’ performance of the National Anthem and the raising of the flag.
Virginia Tech President Timothy Sands then gave an opening statement in which he acknowledged the effects COVID-19 has had on the graduating class.
“We all wish we could be here today in Lane Stadium with everyone, but we are proving that we can still be together virtually,” Sands said. “Over the past few weeks, Hokie Nation has demonstrated that nothing, even social distancing, can diminish the strength of our community.”
Noha Elsherbiny, a Class of 2020 doctoral candidate from the computer science department, then presented the opening reflections.
“After hiking the many beautiful trails around Blacksburg, one saying rings true to me,” Elsherbiny said. “The best view comes after the hardest climb.”
Following Elsherbiny’s speech, Gregory Klatt, the president of the Class of 2020, spoke to his peers and related to all of the emotions the graduating class may have been feeling.
“At the end of the day, here we are, gathering together with our friends and family, being able to say that ‘we did it,’” Klatt said. “For, now we know that every exam, every all-nighter and especially every group project has been well worth it.”
To add to this message of encouragement, Virginia Tech alum and current anchor on the TODAY Show, Hoda Kotb, sent in a video segment from her dressing room.
“You are embarking on this incredible life that’s ahead of you and you may have missed marking this milestone –– but you still have the milestone,” Kotb said. “You are going to be graduates of the class of 2020.”
After Kotb signed off with an “I love you” to Hokie Nation, President Timothy Sands announced the recipient of the William H. Ruffner Medal, the highest offer the university confers. This year’s recipient was Michael J. Quillen, the founder of Alpha Natural Resources.
Camille Schrier, a Virginia Tech Class of 2018 graduate and winner of the 2020 Miss America competition, also shared a video segment with a few words for the graduating Hokies.
“Most often, it is we who seek out opportunities to serve by being present in hands-on, visible ways. But rarely does life seek us out to serve as it has this year invisibly in the most extraordinary of ways,” Schrier said. "You, the graduating class of 2020, have risen to your country's historic call to service by staying home to save lives."
The last speech given before the members of Class of 2020 were officially recognized as graduates of Virginia Tech was presented by former defensive coordinator for Virginia Tech football Bud Foster.
"The Class of 2020 will always hold a special place in my heart,” Foster said. “It's the end of a dream of me coaching at Virginia Tech and the beginning of a new chapter for you."
President Sands then conferred upon the graduates the degrees to which they were entitled. Prior to the close of the ceremony, Deseria Creighton-Barney, the president of the Virginia Tech Alumni Association Board of Visitors, encouraged graduates to stay involved as active alumni. Jonathan Elmore, a member of the Class of 2021, then sang the alma mater.
To close the Class of 2020’s virtual commencement ceremony, Nikki Giovanni, a University Distinguished Professor in the Department of English and the Class of 2020's class ring namesake, presented a poem for the graduates.
“I join those who praise the living,” Giovanni said. “I join all of the Hokie family who welcome the newest Hokie members, who one day will bring their grandchildren to show, ‘see? I was a different soldier in a different war.’ I join the pride we take in the Hokie family.”