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Drew University Announces Commencement Plans for Classes of 2020 and 2021

Commencement speaker, honorary degree recipients named

March 2021 – Drew University has announced plans to hold grouped, in-person Commencement celebrations May 14–15, in addition to a universitywide virtual ceremony on May 13, which will feature the main Commencement address and the awarding of honorary degrees.

The events will honor the graduating Class of 2021, as well as the Class of 2020, whose Commencement was entirely virtual last May due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This crisis will leave a lasting stamp on all who lived and learned through it—especially the Class of 2020 and the Class of 2021,” said President Tom Schwarz in an email to the Drew community announcing the plans.

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The Rev. Dr. Calvin O Butts III T'82

“Not only do we acknowledge their academic achievements, we also note their particular agility, tenacity, and empathy, and we look forward to celebrating them this May.”

The University will continue to closely monitor and adhere to the health and safety guidelines of public health officials, which could necessitate a pivot, though it is the University’s expectation and hope to avoid such a move.

Commencement Speaker and Honorary Degree Recipients

At the May 13 universitywide virtual ceremony, the Rev. Dr. Calvin O. Butts III T’82, senior pastor of the renowned Abyssinian Baptist Church, will deliver the formal Commencement address. Butts served for two decades as the president of SUNY College at Old Wesbury. A lifelong advocate for social justice and civil rights, Butts serves as chair of the Abyssinian Development Corporation, a community-based nonprofit responsible for more than $1 billion in housing and commercial development in Harlem. He has established several schools, served on numerous boards and commissions, and spearheaded numerous boycotts against institutions that practice racist policies and employment discrimination. 

Butts will also receive an honorary degree—his second Drew degree, having received a doctor of ministry from the Theological School in 1982. Additional honorary degrees will be conferred on journalist Yamiche Alcindor and the Rev. Alfred T. Day III, recent past General Secretary of the General Commission on Archives and History of the United Methodist Church. Alcindor received the 2020 Aldo Beckman Award for Overall Excellence in White House Coverage from the White House Correspondents’ Association, while this past February, the Drew University Board of Trustees officially designated Day as a representative trustee for Bishop Peggy Johnson, on behalf of the Philadelphia area of the United Methodist Church.

Learn more about our honorees on the Commencement website.

Tentative Commencement Schedule & Health/Safety Information 

All times to be announced.

  • Thursday, May 13, universitywide virtual ceremony honoring all Class of 2021 graduates, featuring the main Commencement address and the awarding of honorary degrees.
  • Friday, May 14, morning, in-person outdoor ceremony for T’20 and T’21 Theological School graduates.
  • Friday, May 14, afternoon, in-person outdoor ceremony for G’20 and G’21 Caspersen School of Graduate Studies graduates.
  • Friday, May 14, evening, in-person outdoor ceremony for C’20 College of Liberal Arts graduates.
  • Saturday, May 15, morning, in-person outdoor ceremony #1 for C’21 College of Liberal Arts graduates.*
  • Saturday, May 15, afternoon, in-person outdoor ceremony #2 for C’21 College of Liberal Arts graduates.*
  • Saturday, May 15, evening, in-person outdoor ceremony #3 for C’21 College of Liberal Arts graduates.*

*C’21 College of Liberal Arts ceremonies will be grouped by academic programs; details to follow.

The in-person structure of the celebrations was arranged by the Commencement planning committee in order to comply with anticipated CDC and New Jersey state guidelines for gatherings, projected to allow for a maximum gathering occupancy of 500 people at an in-person outdoor event. This will limit the number of guests that graduates may invite to their respective ceremonies.

Each ceremony will feature school- and area-specific programming and will take place in Ranger Stadium, deemed the location best situated to ensure the health and safety of graduates, guests, and other ceremony participants.

Drew will adhere to all COVID-19 protocols in the planning and execution of the Commencement celebrations. Set-up in Ranger Stadium will allow for social distancing at a minimum of 6 feet for all participants and guests. All attendees will be required to wear a face covering at all times while on campus.

All graduating students—including residential, commuting, and remote students—are invited to participate in in-person Commencement ceremonies and celebrations, as well as the universitywide virtual ceremony. The University will reach out to Class of 2020 graduates directly with details regarding their deferred in-person ceremonies on May 14.

Additional details are and will be available at the Commencement website.

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