Published: May 16, 2020
Chancellor Philip DiStefano delivers his commence remarks in front of a podium

Chancellor Philip DiStefano delivers remarks at CU Boulder's first all-virtual commencement ceremony. (Credit: Carolyn Moreau/CU Boulder)

CU Boulder marked its first ever virtual commencement by honoring members of what Chancellor Philip DiStefano called “the next greatest generation.”

Resilience was the theme of the day as the university conferred more than 9,000 undergraduate and graduate degrees—not through the usual ceremony at Folsom Field, but on home smartphones and laptops across Colorado and points beyond. The event included a photo slideshow of moments from the four years that graduating seniors spent on campus, plus a recording of the traditional processing of the mace. Mascot Chip also honored graduates by tossing his cap while observing social-distancing protocols.

In his remarks, DiStefano spoke about how members of the so-called “greatest generation” persevered through the Great Depression and World War II, and predicted that today’s graduates would do the same.

Chad Brokaw delivers his remarks from behind a podiumA camera records Bud Coleman as he lowers the ceremonial mace

Top: Senior Class President Chad Brokaw delivers his remarks; bottom: A behind-the-scenes look as Bud Coleman, professor of theater, lowers the ceremonial mace. (Credits: Carolyn Moreau/CU Boulder)

“You are graduating into a new world, a reimagined world,” DiStefano said. “You will chart unknown paths through your culture of collaboration, leadership and innovation—all things that you have studied and practiced at CU. It is the stuff of the greatest generation and will be the stuff of the next greatest generation.”

Senior Class President Chad Brokaw echoed those sentiments.

“No one could have predicted this, and I am sad for our last semester that could have been, and scared for the world that we are graduating into,” he said in his virtual address. “We did not get the goodbyes and the closure that we wanted and prepared for, but let this be a testament to our resilience and our ability to come closer together even when we have never been further apart.”

The livestreamed event was a bittersweet commemoration, but still brought a lot of fun. The College of Music organized an 18-member virtual choir to sing the CU Boulder “Alma Mater.” Graduating seniors chimed in through their own videos to offer their fellow students inspiring messages and a few “Sko Buffs.”

Commencement speaker and host of the podcast "Hardcore History" Dan Carlin also emphasized his faith that CU Boulder’s graduates will bounce back from the coronavirus pandemic—while highlighting the value of a liberal arts education. 

“I'm reminded of a line spoken by General (and later President) Dwight Eisenhower, ‘In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.’” Carlin said. “What you've been doing here with your time at CU is planning. Planning and preparing for a future that you can't anticipate.”

More than 8,000 viewers tuned in to watch the commencement ceremony at its peak. The event ended with a credits roll listing the names of all degree candidates from fall 2019 and spring and summer 2020. They include 7,153 bachelor’s degrees, 1,666 master’s degrees, 359 doctoral degrees and 198 law degree candidates.

Spring 2020 graduates are also invited to return to campus in spring 2021 to walk in the procession with their cap and gown and be uniquely recognized. 

“When we miss the physical home that we spent so much time in, we must remember that a university is more than a place,” Brokaw said during the ceremony. “It is its children: those who leave its halls to enter the world and make it better.”