Plans for Commencement, 2/26/21

Dear Members of the Classes of 2020 and 2021,

As we shared with you last month, we’ve been hard at work making plans to celebrate you and your accomplishments at Commencement ceremonies to be held in St. Louis this May. We appreciate your patience as we’ve explored what would be possible given the continuing uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic and the public health restrictions that remain in place. We are so pleased to write to you today to let you know that, as long as conditions in the region remain favorable, we will be able to proceed with holding in-person ceremonies for both of your classes. 

Commencement will look and feel different this year, but we have come up with a plan to safely be together to celebrate our graduates. 

  • Due to limitations on gatherings and crowd sizes, we will host multiple, smaller ceremonies for each class.
  • There will be a maximum of 500 graduates at each ceremony.
  • Ceremonies for the Class of 2021 will be held Thursday, May 20 and Friday, May 21. Ceremonies for the Class of 2020 will be held Sunday, May 30. The Commencement office will send an email next week with additional details about the schedule.
  • The location for all ceremonies will be Francis Olympic Field on the Danforth Campus.
  • Graduates will be permitted to invite up to two guests each to campus to view the ceremonies. All guests will be required to register, and physical distancing will be observed in the viewing areas.

To facilitate a safe environment for our graduates, guests and staff, we will be following a number of COVID-19 safety protocols at all ceremonies.

  • All seating will be arranged to accommodate physical distancing. 
  • All graduates, guests and staff will wear face masks at all times while on campus.
  • Everyone in attendance will be required to register in advance. Registration will begin March 5. 
  • All attendees also will be required to complete the campus COVID-19 self-screening process the day of the ceremonies attended. 
  • Francis Field will have separate, clearly marked entrances and exits, and staff will be stationed to ensure that foot traffic in and out travels in only one direction.
  • Individual boxes of water will be provided for graduates and attendees, and no additional food or beverage will be permitted.
  • All students and guests who have not yet been vaccinated for COVID-19 are asked to quarantine for two weeks before coming to campus for Commencement. See revised language.*

In addition to these protocols, there will be a number of changes to the ceremony itself. Stage seating will be very limited, with most speakers and dignitaries who traditionally would speak from the stage appearing virtually instead. Faculty will only be invited to attend virtually. Graduates will not cross the stage, shake hands or receive diplomas during the ceremonies, and graduate students will not be hooded. We know these are important parts of the Commencement tradition, and we regret that we will not be able to incorporate them into this year’s ceremonies due to safety concerns. 

While this will certainly be another unusual Commencement season, we know it also will be a memorable one. The Commencement office will be in touch soon to share additional details about the ceremony and event registration, so keep an eye on your email, and remember you can always check the Commencement website for updates. 

We can’t wait to see you and, for the Class of 2020, welcome you back to campus for this very special occasion.


Beverly Wendland
Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs

Robert M. Wild
Interim Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs

*This communication has been updated for clarification:

You may attend the ceremony in person if you have not received the COVID-19 vaccine. However, all students and guests are asked to significantly limit their interactions with others 14 days prior to the Commencement ceremonies.  This includes staying at home as much as possible, wearing a mask if you must be in contact with anyone outside your home, and keeping at least six feet of distance between yourself and others outside of your family.

Please don’t travel if you’re sick. If you have any symptoms of COVID-19 (fever, new or worsening cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat or loss of taste or smell), stay home. Bring masks and hand sanitizer with you and use both while traveling.

Wear a mask at all times in airports, on planes, or in any closed space with other people. If you have access to a disposable surgical mask (also known as an isolation mask), consider wearing one during flights, or while riding trains or buses. If you are flying, double check to make sure you choose an airline that requires and enforces masking for everyone on board. Same with train or bus travel – be sure to check the policies of the transportation companies you choose and only travel with one that requires masks. If you are seated near a passenger who is not wearing a mask, ask to be moved to another seat. 

Use hand sanitizer after touching surfaces in airports or other transportation hubs. Please do your best to avoid gathering with groups of people, paying particular attention to boarding areas, information desks, and other places where a crowd may form.