University of Lynchburg President Dr. Kenneth R. Garren announced in an email today that Commencement exercises for undergraduate and graduate degree candidates have been rescheduled for the weekend of Oct. 30, 2020. He also appointed a task force to make plans for the University’s reopening in the fall.
“Our decision to postpone Commencement, originally scheduled for May 15 and 16, was a difficult one, and I know how disappointing it was for graduates and their families,” Garren wrote. “This milestone moment has been marked on your calendars for months, if not years. As you may know, this is to be my final Commencement, and I certainly share your disappointment that the pandemic forced us to change the date of our time-honored tradition on the Dell.”
The decision came after “extensive conversations” and surveys of all degree candidates, Garren added. “While many favored summer dates, we found it necessary to choose the fall date because of the many unknowns that still exist regarding the pandemic,” he said.
The new date is still subject to change, Garren noted, as the University continues to monitor the pandemic under guidance provided by the Centers for Disease Control, the Virginia Department of Health, and federal officials.
Garren still plans to confer degrees on May 15, albeit virtually, to ensure Lynchburg graduates have everything they need for graduate school, employment, or professional certifications. Physical diplomas will be mailed to all graduates after that day.
“I know this is not how our graduates expected to celebrate their time at the University,” Garren said. “It is my sincere hope that graduates and their families will be able to return to campus in October to celebrate their successes as intended — together as a community.
“When the members of the Class of 2020 return in October, I am hopeful that they will be coming back to a campus abuzz with activity, and that the curve of the pandemic will have flattened sufficiently to allow some sense of normalcy.”
To help make that happen, Garren has appointed a planning group consisting of various cabinet members. The group will make recommendations and develop scenarios for a safe reopening in the fall, involving faculty and staff from all areas for input, advice, and data collection.