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Five Things To Know About Commencement 2021

By Lara Hale

A yard sign reading "Congratulations Class of 2021" is displayed with the clock tower of Memorial Building in the background.

During Whitman College’s 135th Commencement on Sunday, May 23, the Class of 2021 will gather in front of Memorial Building—thanks to their hard work and the entire campus community’s commitment to a safe spring semester.

Here are a few things to know about this traditional—and yet unique—ceremony.

1. It’s grads only, please.

Like so many years before, graduates in cap and gown will walk through campus to the lawn in front of Memorial Building, where they’ll receive their diplomas from President Kathleen Murray. But while the Class of 2021 gets to celebrate in person, family and friends will have to cheer for them via livestream video due to current state health and safety guidelines regarding event sizes.

2. Precautions and security will be in place.

Student well-being is the college’s top priority, so we’re taking safety steps to minimize any risk to their health. The area of campus where the day’s events take place will be closed off with security staff ensuring only authorized students and event staff—with proof of vaccination or a negative rapid antigen test—enter. Grads will be seated six feet apart and all participants will be masked.

3. A prestigious Whittie will share wisdom and best wishes.

Whitman is excited to welcome back to campus Jena Griswold ’06, the incumbent Secretary of State of Colorado and this year’s commencement speaker. Like 34 of this year's graduates, she was the first member of her working-class family to attend a four-year college. Griswold majored in politics and Spanish and was awarded the prestigious Thomas J. Watson fellowship while at Whitman. After graduating magna cum laude, she went on to earn a law degree from the University of Pennsylvania. Elected in 2019, Griswold is the country’s youngest Secretary of State. Learn more about her work in public service in this interview with the Whitman Wire.

4. Faculty and staff are applauded too.

Although the grads will be the stars of Sunday’s show, commencement is also a time to recognize recipients of the Distinguished Faculty and Staff Awards. They received their awards in a virtual ceremony earlier this month.

5. You can stream it and be part of the party!

The Class of 2021 boasts just over 300 graduates, who come from 32 states and 21 countries. Whether they’re from right here in Walla Walla (eight of them are) or as far away as Venezuela, Belarus or Thailand (just to name a few), graduates’ loved ones and friends can watch them receive their diplomas via a livestream of the entire commencement ceremony, starting at 10 a.m. on Sunday, May 23, 2021.

Published on May 17, 2021
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