WFU celebrates with ‘grateful hearts and renewed hope’

Commencement 2021 was a graduation like no other. The usual outdoor celebration’s move to Joel Coliseum and Truist Field were different, but the happy smiles and proud grads and families remained the same.

“For the past 15 months, all of us have lived in the valley of the shadow of Covid-19. I am so grateful for where we are, together in person. Covid may not be fully behind us but its grip has been broken, and we can celebrate with grateful hearts and renewed hope,” said Wake Forest President Nathan Hatch.

Nearly 1,200 undergraduate students received degrees throughout the day on Sunday, May 16. Each student’s name was called individually in one of four diploma ceremonies hosted at the Coliseum. Faculty dressed in colorful academic regalia greeted the graduates following the recessional.

During the celebration in Truist for all undergraduates, students rearranged their seats to enjoy the ceremony with their friends – coming together in a way they were unable to do until Covid-19 restrictions were lifted just days before commencement.

The program included performances by the Wake Forest University dance team, the Spirit of the Old Gold & Black marching band, the University’s gospel and choral groups and concluded with fireworks and a traditional cap toss.

ROTC candidates were commissioned after a pre-recorded talk by Condoleezza Rice, 66th Secretary of State, author, and professor, and the first African American woman to serve as both Secretary of State and National Security Advisor. Other well-wishes were delivered virtually by Pete Buttigieg, the U.S. Secretary of Transportation, and Kendall Hinton (‘19), wide receiver for the Denver Broncos.

“Today is a very special day for Wake Forest University and the class of 2021,” said Hatch, who is retiring this summer. “It is worth a 21-gun salute, a fireworks extravaganza and, most importantly and now that it is permitted, the warmest embrace of family and friends.”

To experience the Commencement 2021 celebrations, diploma ceremonies and fireworks check out these photo stories.

Archived livestreams of all diploma ceremonies, graduate and professional school hooding ceremonies, and the celebration at Truist Field are available at

Photo Stories