Rutgers University to Host Virtual Commencement Celebration on May 31 at which news anchor Lester Holt will speak

Rutgers University will stream a virtual celebration of its 2020 graduates on May 31 to honor their academic achievements completed during a pandemic that required remote instruction through the final weeks of the spring semester.

President Robert Barchi will preside over and confer degrees during Rutgers University’s 254th Anniversary Commencement celebration, which will feature award-winning NBC News anchor Lester Holt delivering an address to the graduates from his home studio. Holt also will receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree.

“Commencement is an important milestone, not only for our students and their families, but for our faculty and staff, our alumni, and for the Rutgers community as a whole,” President Barchi said. “In this time of uncertainty, celebrating graduation is more important than ever, because it brings us together to recognize achievements with a sense of pride and admiration, even amidst social distancing.”

The virtual ceremony, which will begin at 2 p.m. on Sunday, May 31, will be streamed on the university’s commencement website, Facebook and YouTube channels and will incorporate many of the traditional customs associated with on-campus commencements, along with some new ones for an unprecedented time. The virtual commencement celebration, which is estimated to run between 60 to 75 minutes, will be available to the public.

As a national journalist covering all aspects of this crisis, Lester Holt says he plans to share his unique perspective with graduates.

Graduates and their families will be able to showcase and celebrate their accomplishments through a collection of digital frames and stickers that will be available on Facebook and Instagram ahead of the celebration. Family and friends are invited to join in the experience. Students are encouraged to share their experience live on social media during the streaming program using #RutgersStrong and #RU2020.

In anticipation of a virtual ceremony, President Barchi commissioned a commencement task force with representation from graduation planners across the university. The task force explored ideas on how best to celebrate the university’s graduates, surveying students and eliciting feedback to ensure a program befitting their accomplishments.

“My time at Rutgers pushed me to challenge the bounds of what I believed I could do,” said Jhanvi Virani, president of the Rutgers University Student Assembly who will graduate with a bachelor of arts in mathematics and a bachelor of science in computer science from the School of Arts and Sciences at Rutgers-New Brunswick. “I never thought I would grow as much as I did during my years here, and I owe a lot of that to my hard-working and resourceful peers. Time and time again, the class of 2020 has proven that it does not just survive, it thrives. While there is no real replacement for an in-person graduation, I am looking forward to the virtual commencement. It will recognize the day that we officially completed our journey as Rutgers students, and acknowledge our continued success in the face of adversity.”

President Barchi will be joined at the virtual ceremony by Rutgers University-New Brunswick Chancellor Christopher Molloy and Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences Chancellor Brian L. Strom in full academic regalia. The 254th Anniversary Commencement celebrates undergraduates, professional and graduate students of Rutgers University-New Brunswick and Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences.

In addition to the May 31 virtual commencement, Rutgers University-Newark, Rutgers University-Camden, and schools and colleges across the university will host virtual ceremonies to recognize graduates. Rutgers-Newark will hold a virtual Graduate Recognition Ceremony on Wednesday, May 20, and an in-person celebration at a later date. Rutgers-Camden will host virtual celebrations in May and will plan in-person commencement ceremonies in December. A complete listing of ceremonies will be available on the university’s commencement website. Many Rutgers schools and colleges also are planning in-person ceremonies to be held at future dates after public health officials determine it is safe to resume large social gatherings.

Graduates and their families are encouraged to follow the university’s commencement social channels on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat (@rucommencement) for additional highlights and details as they are made available. A digital program and recognition of all graduates will be available on the commencement website.

A dedicated email address ( has been established to respond to questions from students and families regarding the virtual commencement celebration.

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