Moved online due to the unprecedented challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, the university’s Spring 2020 Commencement recognized graduates’ accomplishments in a virtual ceremony streamed live on commencement.umd.edu as well as through social media. The program featured surprise appearances by celebrity alums; remarks by UMD President Wallace D. Loh, U.S. Rep. Steny H. Hoyer ‘63 and Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan; and hundreds of photos shared by graduating seniors. Honorary doctorates of public service were bestowed upon Hiram T. Whittle, who in 1951 became the first African American to enroll in an undergraduate program at UMD, and Elaine Johnson Coates ’59, the first Black woman to earn a bachelor’s degree at UMD.
The more than 30,000 graduates and families who tuned into the live program were also treated to surprise appearances by notable alums: Under Armour founder Kevin Plank ’96, ESPN “SportsCenter” host Scott Van Pelt ’88, TV host Maury Povich and wife and TV broadcast journalist Connie Chung ’69, and pro wrestler Mojo Rawley ’08, MBA ’11.
As part of the shift to a virtual ceremony, all graduating students were sent a care package, including a turtle pin, posters, commencement program and, for undergraduates, a cap and tassel. All graduates were encouraged to use these items and more to share their UMD memories with the #UMDgrad hashtag. Students and families posted 3,500 photos and videos on social media using #UMDgrad, with many of these memories shared during the ceremony.
The Office of Strategic Communications, in partnership with the Office of Special Events as well as the university’s schools and colleges, developed and distributed care packages and commencement programs, created the website and digital gifts to help graduates and their families celebrate, coordinated a campus-wide social media crowdsourcing campaign, and produced and livestreamed the ceremony.
Announcements and Media Coverage
UMD Virtual Spring 2020 Commencement Ceremony: