March 26, 2021
Dear Tulane Community:
It’s been an incredible year – a year of historic challenges and accomplishments. One in which each of us has made many sacrifices to protect ourselves as well as our friends, families and neighbors. It is in this spirit that we’ve been working over the past several months on various approaches to celebrate our graduates and recognize their extraordinary achievements, while still upholding our high standards for safety. Based on extensive discussions within our community and informed by recently announced guidance from state and city health officials, we are happy to announce that we will be able to offer a hybrid Commencement celebration for the Class of 2021.
The Tulane All University Unified Commencement will be delivered virtually at 2 p.m. CDT on Saturday, May 22. In addition, we will be hosting the smaller individual school ceremonies in person to give graduates the opportunity to walk across the stage to celebrate their accomplishments. Attendance will be limited to graduating students and no more than two guests per graduate – students and guests will be required to follow all safety protocols. The school ceremonies, which will also be livestreamed, will take place at Yulman Stadium the week of May 10, directly following the final exam period. The School of Medicine will also hold a separate in-person ceremony on May 22. More details on these and all the various ceremonies will be shared soon. Please visit commencement.tulane.edu for more information and updates.
Tulane University’s commencement is one of the most highly anticipated and talked about events in all of higher education. In addition to the world’s greatest graduates, our keynote speakers have included top celebrities, presidents and changemakers who have altered the course of our nation. In these respects, this year’s commencement will be no different. I am proud to announce that the keynote speaker at this year’s virtual All University Unified Commencement will be Ruby Bridges, an icon of the civil rights movement who, at age 6, became the youngest and most recognized member of a group of African American students to integrate public schools in New Orleans. In 2011, when Ruby Bridges visited the Oval Office, President Obama said of her and her classmates, "I think it's fair to say that if it wasn't for you guys, I wouldn't be here today."
The eldest of eight children, Ruby was born in Mississippi in 1954 – the same year that the U. S. Supreme Court handed down its Brown v. Board of Education decision, which ruled that racial segregation in schools was unconstitutional. Of the six African American students designated to integrate New Orleans’ William Frantz Elementary School, she was the only one to actually enroll. Her memoir, Through My Eyes, was released in 1999, the same year that she established the Ruby Bridges Foundation to promote tolerance and create change through education. In 2009, she published the children’s book, Ruby Bridges Goes to School: My True Story. In November of last year, inspired by the movement for racial equity and justice taking place around the world, Ruby released her latest book This Is Your Time. A New York Times bestseller, the book is written as a letter to the “young peacemakers of America,” and uses her story and experience to inspire and stand with activists continuing the struggle toward equity and justice today. Artists, filmmakers, journalists and historians have made her story known worldwide, including the famous painting by Norman Rockwell depicting her escort by U.S. marshals on her first day at William Frantz Elementary.
This is the second graduation we have had to plan against the backdrop of a global pandemic. But we have strived to balance our commitment to supporting the safety of our graduates, guests and community while also continuing the tradition of Tulane’s commencement ceremonies.
The Class of 2020 faced similar circumstances as this year’s class. Since the cancelation of their in-person commencement exercises last spring, we have been working on a plan to bring graduates back to campus to celebrate their academic achievement in person, too. We believe such an event will be possible next spring as we celebrate Crawfest and reunion weekend for young alumni. More details on this will be shared soon. Please visit commencement.tulane.edu for updates.
No matter the circumstances, whether in-person or virtual, we are so proud of all our graduates and so eager to celebrate the goals they have achieved, the intellectual and personal journey they have completed and the promising future they face as they join their fellow Tulanians in making positive change throughout the world.