STONY BROOK, NY — Stony Brook University students were celebrated with the 2020 Virtual Degree Conferral Celebration on Friday following three months of remote learning during the height of the coronavirus pandemic, the school announced in a news release. A total of 7,100 graduates were awarded a combined 7,190 degrees and certificate completions. All candidates, with their families and friends, were invited to participate in a live-streamed celebration.
In an attempt to stay as true as possible to the university's traditional commencement ceremony style, Interim President Michael Bernstein and University deans conferred degrees to the 7,100 students, as the Class of 2020 officially joined the ranks of more than 200,000 Seawolves worldwide. Students from 67 countries and 40 states were represented in the Class of 2020 and ranged in age from 18 to 71.
Degrees were bestowed in the following categories:
- 4,500 Bachelor’s Degrees
- 1,925 Master’s Degrees
- 375 Doctorate Degrees
- 125 Medical Degrees
- 41 Doctor of Dental Surgery Degrees
- 230 Certificates
"You are about to become graduates of one of the most prestigious public universities in the world," Bernstein told the students. "Graduation is a bittersweet milestone in the best of circumstances, with a pivotal life-chapter ending and an uncertain journey beginning. The strong emotions that inevitably come with this rite of passage are of course uniquely amplified in the midst of the historic upheaval of the COVID-19 pandemic."
Julianna Casella, who graduated with a bachelor of science in biology and psychology with a minor in writing and rhetoric, was selected as the Class of 2020’s student speaker. In the fall, Casella will be attending the University at Buffalo, pursuing a Ph.D. in school and counseling psychology, eventually planning to work in research crisis prevention and intervention in schools.
"I am confident that any other class of Seawolves would have responded the same way [to the pandemic], because that is what we do here at Stony Brook," Casella said. "Even though much has been lost during this crisis, at the end of the day, two feelings prevail: Hope and gratitude. I will always be thankful for the memories and opportunities Stony Brook has given me and if our response to this pandemic has been proof enough, I think we should all be hopeful for what the future holds."
Charles Schumer, United States senator for New York; Kathleen C. Hochul, lieutenant governor of the State of New York; Kristina M. Johnson, chancellor of the State University of New York; and Dr. Richard Gatteau, vice president for student affairs and dean of students for Stony Brook provided pre-recorded remarks.
"My message to the Class of 2020 is simple," Schumer said. "It’s natural to fear the unknown. Don’t let the harshness of this current moment prevent you from seizing opportunities. Don’t forget you have incredible assets: a college degree from a fine institution and loving families who have your back through thick and thin. Our society will overcome this pandemic and so will you. When the worst is over, we’ll need your help to rebuild our country to be stronger than it was before. You are our future leaders and we have faith in you. So to the graduates, I say once again, congratulations, good luck and Godspeed."
As part of the ceremony, Senior Class Senator Yusra Abdurrop and President of the Undergraduate Student Government, Shaheer Khan presented the Senior Class Legacy gift which was generated from 230 senior donations totaling $9,490. While most students made unrestricted gifts, more than half chose to give to important initiatives on campus including the Stony Brook Fund for Excellence, Health Crisis Fund and Student Emergency Fund. In addition, the Undergraduate Student Government contributed $10,000 with that money specifically going to the Student Emergency Hardship Emergency Fund.