Virtual commencement celebrates Class of 2020’s perseverance


Pitt alumni and guest speakers from all walks of life across the country celebrated the University’s first-ever virtual commencement ceremony.

The ceremony, hosted on April 26 on YouTube because of the COVID-19 pandemic, featured remarks from University leaders, student speakers and several guest speakers including Pittsburgh native Mark Cuban, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf and former Panthers wide receiver and current NFL star Larry Fitzgerald II. Members of the Pitt Band, performing virtually in different locations, ended the commencement.

The video has been viewed more than 23,000 times on the platform as of April 30. Chancellor Patrick Gallagher began his remarks saying that Pitt’s campuses just aren’t the same without them.

He thanked graduating seniors for persevering through the University’s sudden transition to remote learning because of the COVID-19 epidemic.

“You’re living through history,” Gallagher said. “You have been denied many things, but you are also bound together by this shared experience. And most of all by acting together to address the crisis. This online celebration on a day which is typically one of our most important in-person events is part of that sacrifice, but it should be a badge of honor that you wear with pride. Despite all the interruptions and obstacles, you have earned your degree.”

Stephanie Witman, a doctor of philosophy candidate, said that students should try and make the best of these difficult times.

“Without a doubt, things are different for those of us who are graduating now,” Witman said. “We went up during an unprecedented time as students, we confronted and overcame many obstacles in all areas of our lives. Now, we must draw on those experiences to improve the human condition.”

Provost Ann Cudd called the ceremony a “milestone day that on its own, in any given year, would be amazing under any circumstances.”

The fact that students were able to persevere through the University’s transition to remote learning made graduating even more of an accomplishment

Cuban, the owner of the Dallas Mavericks, said change presents “an incredible opportunity,” and encouraged graduates to improve the world once they leave Pitt.

“This is your chance to take your fire, your motivation, all that knowledge you picked up at Pitt, and go out there and change the world,” Cuban said. “And when you have that world-changing idea, I don’t want you to second-guess yourself. I want you to ask yourself, ‘Why not me? Why can’t I be the one to change the world? I am a Pitt graduate.”

For the full ceremony visit

Donovan Harrell is a writer for the University Times. Reach him at or 412-383-9905.

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  • Chancellor Patrick Gallagher
    Chancellor Patrick Gallagher
  • Provost Ann Cudd
    Provost Ann Cudd
  • Deans and other members of senior leadership joined together to celebrate the Class of 2020.
  • Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf
    Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf
  • Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto
    Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto
  • Aaron Donald
    Pittsburgh Panthers great Aaron Donald, who now plays for the Los Angeles Rams
  • Larry Fitzgerald
    Former Pitt Panthers star Larry Fitzgerald, now a wide receiver for the Arizona Cardinals
  • S. Epatha Merkerson
    S. Epatha Merkerson
  • Mark Cuban
    Dallas Mavericks owner and Pittsburgh native Mark Cuban
  • Dean of Students Kenyon Bonner
    Dean of Students Kenyon Bonner
  • Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey
    Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey