Ithaca College Graduates Encouraged to Connect with Others

By Danica Fisher ’05, August 7, 2020
Students celebrated in five virtual ceremonies.

Cindi Berger ’83, chairman of R&C PMK, an international public relations and marketing firm, told graduates at Ithaca College’s 125th Commencement ceremonies that it is now more important than ever to connect with people, despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Berger delivered the main address to graduates in five school-specific, virtual Commencement programs held Sunday, Aug. 2, through Thursday, Aug. 6.  

“Call that friend who needs a cheerleader, that person whose cause needs elevating, the family who has loved you your entire life, the professors who taught you the last four years, that company you’d love to work for,” said Berger. “That’s how you build a network of friends and do it with honesty and integrity. Because at the end of the day, that’s what matters most.” 

Cindi Berger's Commencement address.

Ithaca College President Shirley M. Collado awarded Berger an honorary Doctor of Letters degree during the virtual ceremonies. Students’ degrees were conferred on Sunday, May 17, but the celebrations continued Aug. 2 as each of the college's five schools held its own virtual program, complete with surprise special guests, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, director, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Collado encouraged students to celebrate this milestone and the resilience they’ve demonstrated.  

“Your senior year was turned upside down, and I know how much you’ve lost,” Collado said. “I also know how strong this Class of 2020 is, how tenacious you are, how all you’ve gone through this year will be a touchstone of courage for the rest of your lives. You know what perseverance looks like — you’ve lived it. You know how to walk through difficulty with fortitude and grace, and I am truly inspired by you.” 

Collado also awarded an honorary Doctor of Letters degree to Bill McKibben, an environmental powerhouse who has helped shape public perception — and public action — on climate change, alternative energy, and the need for more localized economies.  

“Class of 2020, the future is still uncertain, but we should take comfort and pride in all that we have been through and know that we can continue to be strong through the many challenges we will continue to see.” 

Senior Class President Gabby Picca

Beverly Baker ’54 was this year’s recipient of the Presidential Medal, which honors significant contributions to the Ithaca College community. “Baker is a pillar of our community and has shown her deep and lasting investment in IC through her tremendous support of our students and the arts,” said Collado.   

Senior Class President Gabby Picca had the opportunity to address her classmates, highlighting the challenges that the Class of 2020 has faced during their senior year.  

Gabby Picca

Senior Class President Gabby Picca.

“We are starting our lives at the forefront of change in this world. Our class will continue to have the strong-will and grit to shape this world into one that is fair and just for all. We will continue to let adversity drive our passion and fuel our souls,” said Picca. “Class of 2020, the future is still uncertain, but we should take comfort and pride in all that we have been through and know that we can continue to be strong through the many challenges we will continue to see.” 

Stay tuned for an article that highlights the faculty and staff who worked behind the scenes to make Commencement happen.

Continuing a tradition begun in 1992, each graduate received a medallion inscribed with a quotation chosen by the college’s president. This year the quotation came from American social reformer, abolitionist, orator, writer, and statesman Frederick Douglass: “To find valuable qualities in our fellows, such qualities must be presumed and expected.” 

CCH Pounder.

CCH Pounder speaks to H&S graduates.

“I selected the quote in January, well before this global public health crisis and well before the rise of activism against the sobering and very real legacy of racial injustice in America,” said Collado. “Douglass’ quote resonates deeply for me today, particularly as I think about this class and the reality we all are in.” 

May 2020 graduates received senior class boxes prior to the commencement ceremonies to get them in the celebratory spirit. Each of these boxes was filled with a diploma, a class of 2020 t-shirt, celebratory confetti, class of 2020 tassel, class of 2020 congratulatory yard sign, commencement program and the commencement medallion. 

Special Guest Speakers at Commencement

Each of the five schools had special guest speakers at their virtual commencement who delivered words of wisdom and encouragement to graduates. 

School of Music 
Darmon Meader ’84, founding member of New York Voices: “I encourage you to just keep all options open as you take what you have learned from these years at Ithaca and wander into your new experiences as you head out into this brand new world, and I wish the very best of luck, especially during these challenging times.”  

School of Humanities and Sciences  
CCH Pounder ’75, Emmy-Award nominated actress: “I want to wish you resilience, and just know that you are going to make this through to the very end, no matter what, and get to where you’re going.”  

School of Business  
John Neeson ’84, Neeson Partners: “You’re from Ithaca College, which means you tackle adversity as if it’s an opportunity, you never ever give up, you’re creative and innovative, and you live your life with purpose.” 

Roy H. Park School of Communications  
Ciara Lucas ’17, reporter for ABC 6, Columbus, OH: “What I know about this class is that you all are resilient; you were made to do hard things. You just did a really hard thing and you’re going to keep doing it with the support of us, your alumni community and all of the staff and faculty that are so proud to watch you grow now that you’ve graduated.” 

School of Health Sciences and Human Performance  
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases: “Please hang in there. We need your talent, your energy, your resolve, and your character to get through this difficult time. In the next phase of your lives, whether you work with COVID-19 patients, perform research, or more likely, contribute simply as caring and connected members of society, all of you will be doing your part, together with the rest of us, to come out from the shadow of this pandemic.” 

student celebrating.

Brian Barnes '20 celebrating during virtual Commencement. (Photo Credit: Twitter Brian Barnes).

Each celebration included student involvement and fun ways for loved ones, faculty, and staff to share their pride in the Class of 2020. Many IC faculty and staff were involved in the planning and production of the virtual ceremonies. Among the five ceremonies there were over 1,200 attendees in Zoom, which included students, staff, faculty, guest speakers and technical staff. Friends and family could watch via YouTube, where there were over 6,300 total views from all five ceremonies. At the end of each ceremony, students were asked to use their celebratory confetti to cheer their graduation accomplishment. 

2020 Commencement

Ithaca College's five virtual Commencement ceremonies were held Aug. 2 through Aug. 6.