WFU’s Virtual Conferring of Degrees ceremony honors Class of 2020

Actress Tina Fey, other celebrities surprise graduates with congratulatory messages

2020 painted on quad

Wake Forest University held a Virtual Conferring of Degrees ceremony Monday night for nearly 2,000 graduates in the Class of 2020. The broadcast began at 7 p.m. with more than 1,200 participating live. An in-person commencement celebration for the class of 2020 is scheduled for a later date.

Actress Tina Fey, famous for her work on NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” and for creating the acclaimed comedy series “30 Rock,” headlined several celebrities who participated in the ceremony and gave words of encouragement to the graduates, who are from 45 states and 21 foreign countries.

“You guys have done it,” Fey said. “You studied, you persevered, you were determined, you were focused, you finished at home. Congratulations, and please know that this virtual graduation ceremony does not diminish what you have achieved. It’s a big deal.”

Carson Daly, Jon Stewart, Tracy Morgan, Jimmy Kimmel and Wake alum and NBA All-Star Chris Paul (‘07) followed Fey.

“No one knew what the world was going to look like at this particular time, but the thing that no one can take away from you are the experiences that you had while you were at Wake,” Paul said.

“I know your senior year might not have gone the way you expected, but just know that…the memories you created will carry you on to whatever your next adventure in life is.” Chris Paul ('07)

The ceremony began with a welcome message from Wake Forest University President Nathan O. Hatch, who told the Class of 2020 he wished they could be on campus to celebrate their achievement with the appropriate fanfare.

“Your current experience, trying as it may be, has tempered you to understand and to lead a world recovering from this pandemic,” said Hatch. “That world, whatever exactly it may look like, needs you as instruments of good will, and beacons of hope.”

Following the conferring of degrees, Student Government Association President Mellie Mesfin (‘20) delivered a heartfelt address to her classmates.

“Our story isn’t ending the way we pictured it would, and it would be inauthentic of me to minimize that loss, so I won’t do that,” said Mesfin, a business and enterprise management major from Silver Spring, Maryland. “What I will do is acknowledge that, despite everything that has changed, we still have something to celebrate today.”

The event featured drone shots over Wake Forest’s campus and Wake Downtown – ending with a view of Wait Chapel and Hearn Plaza where the numbers 2020 were spray-painted in the grass in honor of the graduates.

“As I watched with a few close friends and family, we all felt very grateful to have been a part of this larger Wake Forest community that will transcend beyond the four years on campus,” said politics and international studies major Lizzie Pittinger who joined the ceremony from Lebanon, N.J.

The entire 20-minute ceremony, links to professional school celebrations and congratulatory video messages to the Class of 2020 from faculty, staff, students and alumni, can be found on the Virtual Conferring of Degrees website.

An in-person commencement ceremony for the Class of 2020 is scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 31, at 1 p.m. Should public health concerns continue to prevent gathering in large groups this fall, the alternate commencement date will be Saturday, May 22, 2021.

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