Holy Cross Class of 2020 Returns to Campus to Celebrate

Young alumni enjoy a weekend full of traditional Senior Week events, including caps and gowns.

Members of the College of the Holy Cross class of 2020 returned to Mount St. James last weekend to wear a cap and gown, walk across the stage, shake the president’s hand and enjoy a pandemic-delayed event originally scheduled for May 2020.

While the class saw their degrees conferred upon them in a virtual celebration in May 2020 and enjoyed a virtual academic convocation in May 2021, last weekend’s event was the first in-person celebration of their graduation since the class left The Hill in mid-March 2020.

Throughout the degree recognition ceremony held at the Hart Center at the Luth Athletic Complex, College President Vincent D. Rougeau and President Emeritus Rev. Philip L. Boroughs, S.J., described moments of “Holy Cross magic.” 

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The thousands of family and friends in attendance didn’t have to wait to witness that, as a prime example occurred at the start of the ceremony. 

While Rose Gagne Grosskopf ’20 sang the national anthem, she paused as the lyrics slipped her mind. She kept poised and stated, “Let’s try this again.” On the second rendition, thousands joined her, lifting her spirits and creating a moment in which her classmates and their families rallied around her in a moment of difficulty. 

"It was wonderful," Gagne Grosskopf said. "It was a loving reassurance that the class of 2020 was there."

The gesture surprised no one in attendance as the class continues the Jesuit spirit of living as men and women for and with others, hurdling obstacles and emerging stronger. 

Fr. Boroughs, who served as president during the class’ four years on The Hill, told its members that the unsettled world they entered following their departure from Holy Cross only provides valuable opportunities for growth. 

"This is how wisdom is born. It comes from both success and failure, creativity and relentless struggle. Excitement and disappointment," he said. "It comes when you discover your own weakness or that of others you believed in. It comes when you have endured failure and learn to grow through it, finding new possibilities and with the comfort and encouragement of others the strength to go on."

"I believe that leaving college the way that we did has created an extremely special class of resilient and compassionate human beings who will pursue meaningful work and lead lives with the goal of becoming men and women for and with others," student speaker Marialena Bevilacqua ’20 said in her address.

Sunday’s ceremony concluded four days of celebrations for the young alumni. Shouts of joy, slaps of hands and backs, and plenty of hugs were shared as they checked in at Hogan Campus Center, collected their class pin and moved between activities, including graduate portraits on Fenwick porch, a BBQ behind the Luth Athletic Complex and Baccalaureate Mass held in St. Joseph Memorial Chapel.

"It’s bittersweet, but I’m so glad that we got the chance to come back," Kate Beckerman ’20 said.

"We get the closure we didn’t get. Seeing all these places again… it brings back the nostalgic memories," Jayda Germain ’20 said.

While waiting for pictures on Fenwick porch, Germain caught up with Kaion Huggins-Daniel ’20 and Nakia Robinson ’20. They had plenty of news to share: Germain works part-time for a health care research organization while pursuing a master’s degree in regulatory affairs and health care policy. Robinson has been working with fifth and sixth graders as they learn math and English language arts; she just started a graduate program in public administration and policy. Huggins-Daniel has been teaching pre-K at his old elementary school in the Bronx while hitting open mic nights and working on his album. 

"What’s so great about this weekend is we can be with everyone and not have the sad aspects of leaving. We already left and have already mourned that. Now we’re just having fun and catching up with old friends," Grace Cogan ’20 said.

Itaru Fujiwara ’20 noted he wouldn’t have missed the weekend, traveling from his now home base of Tokyo. "It meant a lot to my parents for me to at least walk across the stage, and I wanted to come back to campus to graduate," he said. "We didn’t get to say good-bye."

Anna Acevedo’s ’20 face brightened as her mind wandered minutes back to the moment she  walked across the stage and heard her name. As a first-generation college student, the moment meant just as much to her family. 

"Giving that ceremony to my mom, it means a lot," she said. "It means everything, to be honest."

Writer Megan Bard contributed to this story.