Not a typical year: GVSU's virtual graduate celebration recognizes class of 2020

Photos of GVSU College Deans from the virtual commencement ceremony.
Image credit - Elizabeth Lienau

Grand Valley seniors had expected to gather in a large arena, hear inspiring speeches, listen for their name to be called and shake hands with President Philomena V. Mantella.

However, this is not a typical year.

More than 3,000 Grand Valley students, who were supposed to celebrate commencement this weekend, were recognized virtually Friday, April 24 for achieving their degrees. 

A virtual graduate celebration was held for graduating students and their families and supporters on the university’s Facebook page and YouTube channel. More than 2,000 people tuned in to watch. 

Mantella began the celebration by reminding the class of 2020 that they are not typical graduates.

“You made a difference from the moment you stepped onto our campus,” Mantella said.

She commended the graduates for their tenacity and flexibility in completing the winter 2020 semester, and their degrees, remotely.

“You will always be part of the Grand Valley community,” Mantella said. “Stay safe and healthy, and stay connected with campus.”

Maria Cimitile, provost and executive vice president for Academic and Student Affairs, recognized students for their hard work, intellectual curiosity and determination to succeed.

The college deans, several dressed in academic regalia, shared messages of hope and congratulations. Following their messages, the names of the all the graduates were listed.

The virtual celebration ended with, "An Original Song for the (COVID) Class of 2020,” written by graduating senior Joe VanArendonk.

A virtual yearbook has been created for the class of 2020. Graduates can log in here and answer prompts that will populate their yearbook page. The page can then be shared on social media.

Rescheduled commencement ceremonies are being planned for Saturday, October 10, 2020. The date is dependent on the ability to hold large events per state regulations.

Students also have the option to take part in the fall semester ceremony held on Saturday, December 12, 2020. Graduates need to complete an RSVP indicating which ceremony they will participate in. An e-mail will be sent in the summer to confirm their participation for either date.

For more information about commencement, visit


Sign up and receive the latest Grand Valley headlines delivered to your email inbox each morning.