Each UMW graduating class is unique, a one-of-a-kind collection of dedicated students determined to earn their degrees and change the world. With all they’ve been through – from the thrill of Orientation and the First-Year Experience to political turmoil and a global pandemic that cleared campus – the Class of 2020 stands out in a big way.
More than 1,000 students strong, this group of graduates faced change head-on, proving to be a resilient and formidable force. From in-person learning to virtual classrooms, from one-on-one consults with faculty members to scheduled Zoom meetings, from on-campus events to celebrations that played out on Instagram, this class truly has its own story to tell.
With the unprecedented chaos caused by COVID-19 and academic expectations still high, they stuck with it. They honored the commitments they’d made and didn’t give up. They did it!
They won’t turn their tassels at Commencement on Ball Circle Saturday as they had planned, but later, at a ceremony currently rescheduled for Oct. 24. Then, they will celebrate together the lessons they’ve learned through these past weeks, in perseverance, adaptability and grit – a punctuation point on a liberal arts education that aims to do the same thing.
It’s time for these Eagles to leave the nest. It’s their time to fly!
Here are 20 things – among many others – that make UMW’s Class of 2020 stand out:
- It includes 1,100 undergraduate students*
- The members started their Mary Washington journey alongside President Paino, who joined the Eagles team in the summer of 2016, just weeks before they did.
- They belong to the first UMW graduating class to complete its final semester online due to a pandemic.
- They’re the first to celebrate uniquely UMW rite-of-passage rituals – Devil Goat Day, Research and Creativity Day, Eagle Awards ceremony – virtually.
- They all read Something Must Be Done About Prince Edward County by Kristen Green ’95, the Common Read when they were freshmen.
- Three seniors received the prestigious Darden Award, finishing with a perfect 4.0 GPA under tougher-than-typical circumstances.
- Fifty-eight will leave Mary Washington with University Honors.
- Those who earned service cords for significant volunteer work logged more than 3,000 volunteer hours.
- Combined, the graduating athletes garnered 757 wins throughout their college careers, won 23 conference championships and advanced to 21 NCAA championships.
- The digits in their graduating year, 2020, add up to four, the number of years most of them spent studying at Mary Washington.
- They’re the first class to dress in matching UMW T-shirts for an aerial group photo taken during Welcome Week, soon after they arrived at Mary Washington.
- Most of them were born in 1998, the year the late civil rights icon and Mary Washington history professor James Farmer retired from UMW, yet a University-wide centennial celebration of Farmer’s birth brought them together during their senior year.
- Most of them started kindergarten in 2003, when George W. Bush was President, Finding Nemo was the top-grossing movie and Norah Jones swept the Grammys.
- The bookstore item they most frequently bought was the navy blue “University of Mary Washington” Champion short-sleeve T-shirt.
- They are Goats, but unlike prior competitions against their Devil rivals, they didn’t keep score during their senior-year contest, which played out on Instagram instead of Ball Circle.
- They witnessed a wave of campus-culture updates, including the unveiling of a new Sammy D. Eagle mascot, a bookstore takeover by Barnes and Noble and the opening of the University Center’s long-awaited Panera Bread. And they transitioned from Blackstone to Katora for their on-campus coffee.
- They watched the transformative renovations of two of UMW’s oldest and most celebrated structures, Willard Hall, built in 1911, and the Amphitheatre, originally dedicated in 1923.
- They’re the first class to decorate their mortarboards from across the country – most out-of-state students hail from Maryland, Florida and New Jersey – while their last weeks as undergrads wound down.
- More than a quarter – 27 percent – of them are first-generation college students.
- They’ve landed jobs at Amazon and the FBI, been accepted at schools like Clemson and George Washington University, and earned posts in the Peace Corps (once quarantine orders are lifted) in locales like Mozambique and Sierra Leone.
Congrats, UMW Class of 2020!
*This number is approximate; the official tally, delayed due to changes in evaluation methods necessitated by COVID-19, is still being finalized.