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Shenandoah University celebrates 2019-2020 graduates in virtual ceremony

shenandoah universityShenandoah University celebrated its first-ever virtual 2020 University Commencement on Saturday.

This year, Shenandoah celebrated 216 August 2019 graduates, 320 December 2019 graduates, and 734 May candidates for graduation. Among these were 80 international students from 38 countries.

Sharing video messages of congratulations and encouragement were Gov. Ralph Northam; Daymond John, of ABC’s “Shark Tank,” who will speak in November at Shenandoah’s annual business symposium; Virginia U.S. Sen. Mark Warner; Harlem Globetrotters Big Easy Lofton and Handles Franklin; and retired American public radio talk show host Diane Rehm, who holds a weekly podcast called “On My Mind” and whose show “The Diane Rehm Show” was distributed by NPR.

Gov. Northam acknowledged that although the world has changed, graduates can still control how they respond in these uncertain times.

“While these are tough times, these challenges also present opportunities,” Northam said. “When our old ways of doing things break down, we have to replace them, and that means we have a chance to rebuild in a different way and make things better.”

Screech, the mascot of the 2019 World Series champion Washington Nationals, also sent a congratulatory shout-out video to Shenandoah graduates.

The ceremony included live remarks by President Tracy Fitzsimmons, Ph.D., and Provost Adrienne Bloss, Ph.D. streamed via Zoom and Facebook Live from the James R. Wilkins, Jr. Athletics & Events Center. This year, President Fitzsimmons presented the Class of 2020 with a recently purchased bright star from the constellation Taurus. The newly acquired star will be named “Shenandoah University Class of 2020,” and university officials are hopeful this will become a tradition for each graduating class.

“I am extremely proud of and impressed with this class of graduating students,” Dr. Fitzsimmons said. “They’ve had to deal with the most challenging of circumstances, and not only have they risen to the occasion, they’ve surpassed all of our expectations. This star represents not only their ascent into greatness, but also how brightly they have shined during this time.”

Members of the Shenandoah choirs and wind ensemble wrapped up the online ceremony with a virtual performance of “Oh Shenandoah.” Phi Mu Alpha also performed the alma mater. Students, family members, faculty and staff shared photo and video messages for the graduates prior to the start of the ceremony.

The in-person commencement ceremony is currently set to take place Oct. 18, 2020, in the James R. Wilkins, Jr. Athletics & Events Center.

To view the online commencement, visit