MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – The University of Minnesota President Joan Gabel sent out a systemwide message on Friday to all students, staff and faculty regarding a virtual celebration in May for 2020 graduates.

As many people have had to face the numerous disruptions created by the COVID-19 pandemic, the class of 2020 is missing out on some of life’s most significant moments — including commencement.

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“Having been a part of more than 25 years of commencement ceremonies in my career (my favorite day) and, as the mother of two students set to graduate this spring, my heart goes out to all of you in the class of 2020 as I share in your disappointment,” Gabel said.

Commencement is a time when graduates come together in the presence of family, friends, faculty and alumni, to “mark both a completion and a new beginning.”

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Even though the in-person commencement ceremonies are canceled in May, there will be an on-campus ceremony in the fall. The U of M will provide more information on this ceremony at a later date.

In the meantime, the University is planning for a large, systemwide, virtual celebration for all graduates on Saturday, May 16. The celebration will be fully online and can be viewed at any time, from any location — and will provide graduate’s with a personalized experience.

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The theme for this spring’s celebration is “Hail to Thee,” a reference from Minnesota’s state song, and was chosen to reflect the admiration for everyone’s incredible resilience in these stressful times, according to the U of M president. The University says that more details on the virtual celebration will be shared in the coming weeks.