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Messages from President Ryan

Update on Final Exercises

June 24, 2020

To the Class of 2020,
I hope this note finds you well, and that you are feeling rightfully proud to be graduates of the University of Virginia.
In April, I wrote to let you know about our plans to hold Final Exercises on the Lawn, either this fall or next spring, and that we would follow up with more details in June in order to give you plenty of time to make plans.  Today, we can confirm that Final Exercises will be held on May 28-30, 2021--assuming, as always, that public health regulations by that point permit large gatherings.
We reached this decision for several reasons.  First, the dates set aside in October for Final Exercises lined up with fall break for current UVA students.  Last week we announced that undergraduate fall break will be canceled.  We are doing this so that we can finish in-person instruction by Thanksgiving in order to minimize travel and possible transmission of the virus.  This means that students will be on Grounds and in classes during the date set aside for Final Exercises, and it would be difficult to accommodate thousands of graduates and their families at the same time.  Second, we have put in place public health measures for the fall—including social distancing requirements—that would make it hard to hold Final Exercises on the Lawn and to hold individual ceremonies across Grounds.  Finally, while we still don’t know exactly what the fall will look like in terms of the progression of the virus, it seems quite unlikely that public health restrictions will allow for large gatherings by October.  
For all of these reasons, we believe holding Final Exercises in the spring is the right choice.  We know this may be disappointing news for some of you, but our primary goal—beyond keeping you and everyone on Grounds safe—is to give you and your families the celebration you deserve, and one that reflects the special place the Class of 2020 will always hold in the history of this university.  Holding Final Exercises in May gives us the best chance to do that, and we’re already working on ways to make the weekend a meaningful and memorable one.
We will be sharing more information about Final Exercises as we get closer, and we look forward to seeing you on the Lawn next spring for what will be a truly one-of-a-kind celebration.  


Friday, April 17, 2020

To the Class of 2020,

I write today with an update on a topic many of you have been wondering about: Final Exercises. 

I know how much all of you were looking forward to Final Exercises and how disappointed many of you are that the ceremonies had to be moved.  Graduation isn’t just a chance to walk the Lawn and get your diploma.  It’s a time to say goodbye to your friends; to thank your families for the sacrifices they’ve made and the support they've provided; to let your professors know how much you appreciate them; to have one more bagel, go on one more hike, and sing the Good Old Song one more time.  It’s an incredibly special moment—and one every graduate of the University should have a chance to experience.

Over the last few weeks, we’ve heard from many of you hoping that we would be able to hold Final Exercises on a different date.  That’s been our hope, too, which is why we convened a committee made up of undergraduate and graduate students as well as faculty and staff to look at different options for Final Exercises.  Following the committee’s recommendation, we are planning the following:

  1. We will hold a virtual ceremony on the original date of Final Exercises, May 16, 2020, to confer degrees.  This will serve as the official end of the academic year and allow all those who earned their degrees to graduate on time.  We are planning something memorable to mark the occasion, and will have more details to share soon. 
  2. We will hold Final Exercises on the Lawn, either this fall or next spring.  We are holding the weekend of October 9-11, 2020, which coincides with fall reading days.  Because we do not yet know whether it will be safe to have a large gathering in October, we are also holding May 28-30, 2021 as a backup, which is the weekend after the Class of 2021 will walk the Lawn.  Given the continued uncertainty about COVID-19, we recommend against making travel plans for October until we know more; we simply wanted you to know now the dates we are holding on our calendars so that you can hold them on yours.  We will follow up with more definite information in June. 
  3. Schools and departments are planning to hold their own in-person ceremonies as well, although details—including possible dates—are still being worked out.  As more details become available, we will post them on the Class of 2020 Final Exercises website at

This year’s Final Exercises will be different in some respects from the ones we had originally planned, and had been looking forward to.  But we will do everything we can to make these ceremonies a fitting end to your time at UVA.  While every class at UVA is special, yours is truly unique—and these Final Exercises will be, too.  I expect it will be one of the most joyful occasions the Lawn has ever seen, and a moment all of us will remember forever.  I look forward to seeing you there.  


James E. Ryan

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