Dear Tulane Community:
When they first arrived at Tulane, I told the Class of 2021 that their years here would be filled with discovery, adventure and life-changing educational, social and cultural experiences. I also said they would be presented with a world of opportunities, but might face some difficulties that would test their mettle, resolve and determination. At the time, of course, I had no idea that their journey toward a Tulane degree would be challenged by the worst global pandemic in 100 years.
Notice, I use the word “challenged” and not “defined.” For while COVID-19 confronted the Class of 2021, it did not overcome them. It did not define them during their time as students here at Tulane, and I am certain that it will not define them in the years ahead. Rather, they will be known as the class which, in the face of historic difficulties, not only survived, but thrived – not only made it through, but made a difference along the way.
When COVID-19 ground much of the world to a halt, the Class of 2021 responded with innovation and resilience. They found new ways to engage in their fields, make discoveries, conduct research and present results. They studied harder, delved deeper, explored wider and served with more passion and purpose. In the worst of times, they showed us and the world the best of Tulane. And they are just getting started. A total of 1,718 undergraduates and 1,296 graduate and professional students are slated to earn their Tulane degrees this week. These graduates, who hail from cities and towns around the globe, promise to bring about worldwide positive change.
Today marks the beginning of a four-day celebration of this amazing class. In addition to our virtual Unified Commencement, with civil rights icon Ruby Bridges and music by Dr. Michael White, all nine schools will hold smaller, in-person ceremonies – something that would have been unthinkable just months ago. We will salute the Class of 2021 virtually, in person and in true Tulane spirit. We could not be prouder of this historic class or more hopeful for their future.