Unlike any class in Bellarmine’s history, the Class of 2020 completed their collegiate careers amid the upheaval of a pandemic. In the middle of their final semester, Bellarmine officials sent all students home for online instruction. The seniors
would never return.
The activities of Senior Week—a Louisville Bats game, a night at Churchill Downs, a cruise on the Belle of Louisville and an honors dinner among them—were canceled to combat the novel coronavirus. Of even more significance, so was commencement.
"Please know that when we look back at this moment in history, we will regard the Class of 2020 among those who made a substantial sacrifice for the greater good."
Instead, on May 9 Bellarmine held a first-ever “Toast to Our Graduates” on the university’s Facebook page. The program included comments from Dr. Paul Gore, vice president for Academic Affairs and provost; graduate Mary Wurtz; commencement speaker John Lansing, a 2009 Bellarmine graduate and the new CEO of National
Public Radio; Dr. OJ Oleka, a 2020 Bellarmine Ph.D. graduate and president of the Association of Independent Kentucky Colleges and Universities; and President Susan M. Donovan. Following their remarks and a virtual toast, the names of all new
graduates scrolled on the screen.
“At a time when just getting out of bed can be considered a small victory, you have achieved a tremendous victory,” Dr. Gore said during the video presentation. “Take some time today to savor this achievement. Reflect on the many things
you’ve learned; the many friends you’ve made; and the many experiences you’ve had. They have helped to shape you into the person you are today and the person you will be as you go forward from Bellarmine.”
Before virtually conferring 913 degrees, Dr. Donovan acknowledged that heading out into the real world, which is a daunting prospect at any time, was even more so during a pandemic.
“How do you know you will make it?” she asked. “There are no guarantees, of course. But you have already proven that you can adapt and succeed when circumstances change. And circumstances will always change. I am entirely confident
that your Bellarmine education, rooted in the great tradition of the liberal arts, will help you to be flexible; to solve problems; and to create great meaning and value in your life, no matter where your path may take you.”
That evening, Churchill Downs' iconic Twin Spires glowed Bellarmine scarlet thanks to Bill Mudd '93, president and chief operating officer of Churchill Downs Inc. and president of the Bellarmine Board of Trustees. He was one of several community leaders,
including Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear, who recorded congratulatory videos for the graduates. "Please know that when we look back at this moment in history, we will regard the Class of 2020 among those who made a substantial sacrifice for the greater
good." (View all of the congratulatory videos.)
In June 2020, faculty and staff volunteers presented graduates with their diplomas, caps and gowns in a drive-thru set up in the parking lot of Nolen C. Allen Hall. The method of delivery differed from any other year, but students’ emotions were
Several of the elated graduates parked their cars immediately after picking up their regalia and donned caps and gowns so that their proud parents could take commemorative photos at St. Robert’s Gate and other campus landmarks.
Others clearly felt the ceremony of the moment, even without the pomp and circumstance.
Amber Schools, who double-majored in Political Science and Theater, teared up as volunteer Ronda Purdy, director of disability services, handed her degree through the passenger window. “It’s OK to cry,” Purdy told her. “You’ve
Yes, Class of 2020, you’ve earned your degrees—and our respect for the way you handled adversity with grace and grit. We celebrate you, our newest alumni.