April 09, 2021
Dear Members of the University Community,
We normally don’t send emails so late in the week, but this news shouldn’t wait. We have found a way to provide an in-person graduation for the Class of 2021, though it won’t take place on our campus. We moved the May 15 event to FedExField in Maryland.
Since the 1960s we have held commencement on the University Mall, using the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception as a backdrop. It’s always beautiful. But COVID and the District’s guidelines made that impossible last year, and the guidelines announced on April 7 for this year are too restrictive to allow graduates to attend with their families. The size of the venue will permit each graduate to have four guests at FedEx Field. We will livestream the event so others can see it as well.
I want to acknowledge the persistence and creativity of our commencement team, who worked so hard over the past year to find alternatives to a virtual commencement. We have tried all year to be as open as is safely possible, and these plans will carry that through to the end.
The event will feature commencement speaker William Chester Jordan, Dayton-Stockton Professor of History at Princeton University, as well as Cardinal Wilton Gregory, Chancellor of the University.
Honorary degrees will be presented to Dr. Jordan; to Pierre Manent, French political scientist and academic; Tommy Espinoza, president, CEO, and co-founder of Raza Development Fund, the largest Latino community development financial institution in the U.S. for the past 20 years; Kathleen McChesney, former FBI Executive Assistant Director and a leading expert in addressing the Catholic Church’s sexual abuse crisis; and Joe Carlini ‘84, CEO at McKean Defense Group and outgoing chairman of the Catholic University board of trustees.
Phi Beta Kappa, Honors Convocation, Nursing Pinning, and the Baccalaureate Mass will all take place at the Basilica on May 13 and 14. The Columbus School of Law will hold its commencement ceremony on Friday, May 21. Because of space limitations we will not be able to accommodate guests at the Baccalaureate Mass, and have limited capacity at the other events. See the commencement website for details.
Last May we held a virtual conferral ceremony for the Class of 2020. Our promise to our graduates at the time was that we would hold an in-person commencement as soon as we could. While the pandemic has lasted longer than any of us expected, we intend to keep our commitment to the Class of 2020. In partnership with the Catholic University Alumni Association, the University continues to plan for an in-person celebration on campus for our graduates once it is safe to do so.