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‘It Was Good To Be Back’: Class of 2020 Enjoys Long-Awaited Commencement Weekend

Ryan Dombrowski said he always knew the Class of 2020 would return to Boston College’s campus to celebrate commencement.

“I thought BC was too great of a school just to ship a champagne glass in the mail saying ‘congrats,’” Dombrowski, BC ’20, said. “I knew we were going to do it at some point, just once the COVID settled down a little bit … so I’m lucky and glad that we were able to do it.”

Last weekend, BC invited the Class of 2020 back to campus for its Commencement Weekend—two days of in-person celebration alongside friends and family to make up for graduation ceremonies that were canceled nearly a year-and-a-half ago due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The celebration began with a tailgate before the BC football game against North Carolina State University, which featured a video tribute welcoming back the graduates. On Sunday, graduates and their families were invited to attend a Baccalaureate Mass, a commencement ceremony, individual ceremonies for each of the five schools, and a celebratory luncheon. 

Leah DeCosta Spencer, associate vice president for alumni relations, said the University sent a survey to the Class of 2020 in March to gauge alumni interest. The survey response rate—almost 95 percent—helped shape the events of Commencement Weekend.

“We tried to get a sense from the class [of] what it was that they were looking for, and it was very clear they were looking for something that was both celebratory—so fun activities with their family and friends—but also ceremonial—something that would kind of replicate what would have looked like a formal commencement ceremony,” she said.

Spencer said the University was planning nonstop from this March until the Commencement Weekend.

“From that moment forward, the University was committed to bringing the class back and offering a wonderful weekend of celebrations,” Spencer said.

Hearing about Commencement Weekend was a validating experience, according to Jonah Steiss, BC ’20.

“I didn’t feel like there was any closure,” Steiss said. “I don’t know, feeling like I graduated wasn’t very exciting when you don’t really have a graduation.”

Steiss thought that the seniors definitely weren’t returning to BC after being asked to leave campus in March of 2020, so he and his friends “went for it” when celebrating their last few days together.

Now a second year master’s student in the Lynch School of Education, Steiss said he never really left campus, but it was cool to have his friends come back for the first time.

“I think that added another level of joy to it, because people who were, like, in California on some random weekend in October, I didn’t really expect them to come back, but it was really great to see … them again,” Steiss said. “And really, I mean it shows how important this was to all of us.”

Dombrowski’s favorite part of Commencement Weekend was being able to experience the football game with family and friends. 

“I think the tailgate was the most fun,” he said. “I think that’s a given.”

Initially, Timmy Facciola, BC ’20 and a former Heights editor, said he was not that excited for Commencement Weekend because there’s no real way to make up for lost time on campus.

“Just the actual time on campus I think is precious and probably what I would have liked to get back most,” he said.

Regardless, Facciola said he had a great time coming back to BC.

“It was really fun to be back and see people who I hadn’t seen in a long time, and just being in the environment,” Facciola said. “It was just, like, really fun to be back in the BC bubble, which I think has a very specific type of energy to it.”

Facciola said all of his friends were able to return for the weekend.

“I don’t really know anyone who didn’t come back,” Facciola said.

Over 1,700 members of the undergraduate Class of 2020 returned to campus, as well as 4,000 guests who joined for Sunday’s events, according to Spencer.

“The total number of graduates from this class [is] 2,332,” Spencer said. “Out of 2,332, we had over 1,700 graduates in person with us, which was absolutely phenomenal.”

The University was looking to honor the graduates, recognize their achievements at BC, and to let them know that BC cares for them, Spencer said.

“They’re so very much a part of this community and while a long time coming, we wanted to properly honor, recognize, and celebrate the great achievements of this class in a proper form,” Spencer said.

For these events, attendees had to have either proof of a negative PCR test or a vaccination card, according to a University release. Facciola said that he was confused why there was no vaccination mandate for the weekend.

“It just sort of seemed like an obvious thing that they’re doing with their students, so like, why wouldn’t you do it with your alums?” Facciola said.

Facciola said he felt blindsided when he was not allowed to tailgate in the Mods because he did not have a Class of 2022 ID. Facciola then went to the Alumni tailgate, where he said it was unnecessarily complicated to purchase a drink.

“Even though BC complicated things unnecessarily by not letting us into the Mods and then upcharging us on beer, the people were still there and so that’s what made it so fun,” he said. 

Facciola said that ultimately, it’s the people who made Commencement Weekend so fun.

“My favorite moment was just being back with friends on BC’s campus and sort of just picking up where we left off,” Facciola said.

Though it felt rewarding in the moment, it was hard for Steiss to celebrate completely. 

“You can’t really celebrate super hard, because all of our lives have moved on for a year and a half,” he said. “You don’t really get to take a moment to pause and be super excited about it.”

For Dombrowski, it was good to be back and finally able to celebrate.

“Good things come to those who wait,” Dombrowski said. “That’s corny as hell, but … it was just awesome.”

Featured Image by Vikrum Singh / Heights Editor

October 24, 2021