Double honors: Commencements planned for Class of 2021 and Class of 2020

Publication Date

The College will hold two in-person commencements this month to honor the Class of 2021 and the Class of 2020.

Approximately 480 students in the Class of 2021 will receive degrees during Union’s 227th Commencement at 10 a.m. on Sunday, June 13, on Hull (Library) Plaza.

All graduates will be required to follow appropriate health and safety measures in accordance with New York state guidance. This includes proof of a negative COVID-19 test and/or a completed vaccination series (at least 14 days beyond the last vaccine), masking and physical distancing.

2021 commencement speaker Susanne Goldie

Dr. Sue J. Goldie '84

Due to limits on crowd size, each student is allowed two guests.

Attendees will be required to register in advance and to observe masking and social distancing guidelines.

To learn more about the health and safety protocols, visit the Commencement website.

The featured speaker is Susanne J. Goldie ’84, a physician, medical researcher and educator whose work has greatly influenced the field of public health, particularly in the application of decision science models to understand the epidemiology of disease and outcomes in large populations.

Her research has focused on viruses of global health importance, cancer prevention, reproductive health and maternal mortality. In 2005, she received a $500,000 MacArthur Fellowship, known as a “genius grant,” in recognition of her work.

Goldie is the Roger Irving Lee Professor of Public Health at Harvard University, where she also serves as director of both the Center for Health Decision Science, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and the Global Health Education and Learning Incubator. She served as the founding director of the Harvard Global Health Institute.

Goldie will receive an honorary doctorate of science degree.

The Class of 2021 co-valedictorians are Chris Avanessian, Shea K. Delehaunty and Lisa C. Spagnuolo.

Co-salutatorians are Emma N. Cravo and Jennifer A. Mutch.

The student speaker is Nimra Shabbir.


The College will host a commencement ceremony for the Class of 2020 at 10 a.m. on Sunday, June 20, on Hull (Library) Plaza. The ceremony will follow the protocols for the Class of 2021 event.

The traditional ceremony was postponed last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, the College held a virtual event in which President David R. Harris conferred degrees on the 477 members of the class.

Juju Chang (Photo credit: ABC/Heidi Gutman)

Juju Chang (Photo credit: ABC/Heidi Gutman)

Graduates have been invited back for the in-person ceremony.

The featured speaker is Juju Chang, the Emmy Award-winning co-anchor of ABC News’ “Nightline.” A regular contributor to “Good Morning America” and “20/20,” Chang has for decades reported on major national and international news events, including terrorism, natural disasters and racial equity.

She recently presented two hour-long specials and one live special about the rise of hate crimes against the Asian American and Pacific Islander community.

Chang has been recognized for her in-depth personal narratives set against the backdrop of pressing national and international news: from immigration and terrorism to racial equity and LGBTQ+ rights.

She has covered major breaking news for decades including extensive coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic: the science, the economic fallout, the racial disparities, the impact on hospital ICUs and essential workers.

Chang will receive an honorary doctorate of letters degree.

Kara Leyden, an interdepartmental biology and sociology major from Glenmont, N.Y., is the valedictorian. She is in the Leadership in Medicine program.

The salutatorian is Jonathan Hanna, a computer science major from Phoenixville, Pa.

The student speaker is Jose Dolores Valdivieso.