2020 Ohio State graduates celebrate together … finally
Students and families return to Ohio Stadium as university honors resilient class
The pomp and circumstance promised to The Ohio State University class of 2020 finally came to fruition on a warm summer evening in Ohio Stadium.
Thousands of graduates joined university leaders, family and friends to celebrate the academic achievements they completed in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. Ohio State previously honored this class in virtual ceremonies in May, August and December 2020 but Saturday night was the fulfillment of a pledge to hold an in-person event.
Kierston Heins, a 2020 communications graduate, said the in-person ceremony was important to her and her family.
“It means a lot to me. It means a lot to me because I’m an only child. My parents get to experience me graduating in the ’Shoe,” she said. “I’m one of only a few cousins who graduated or even went to college.”
President Kristina M. Johnson presided over the 90-minute ceremony. She noted the class of 2020 is already building a better future and said she would share a special bond with this collective of graduates.
“I have something important in common with many of you. I also started a new job during the pandemic, moved to a new city, made new friends, and tried to impress new people,” she said. “So I know firsthand that that is not easy.”
Ohio State head football coach Ryan Day and his wife, Nina, were guest speakers. They are advocates for mental health and established the Christina and Ryan Day Fund for Pediatric and Adolescent Mental Wellness at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in support of mental fitness for children and young adults.
“As we look over this great group of graduates, I see the makings of greatness. I can tell by all the creative caps I see out there. Some of you will help build better communities. Some of you will help build a more civil society. Some of you will succeed in business. And some will make helping others your life’s work,” Ryan Day said. “You’re going to reach some wonderful new heights along the way. But believe me, you’re also going to get knocked down a few times. It’s inevitable, and that’s life.”
They spoke about the importance of good mentors, a trusted support group and celebrating joy when you achieve success.
“It’s really easy to deny yourself permission to celebrate the wins when maybe things go wrong for far too long. You may even think you don’t deserve them. You do,” Nina Day said. “Class of 2020, never cheat yourself out of celebrating your victories, and don’t just focus on the big ones. Celebrate the little ones, too, because they all add up.”
The ceremony concluded with music from the Ohio State marching band, fireworks and a video recitation of an original poem called “Our ring will echo.” The poem, by Chad Rutan, was created to honor the perseverance of the class of 2020.
Johnson said she hopes the class will continue reaching for greatness.
“The world we knew before the pandemic is gone, and another world needs to be made in its place. You will draw its outlines,” she said. “I hope you make it a world that is better prepared for risks of all kinds, willing to take sweeping steps to address pervasive problems, and much, much more just and kind.”