Dear Willamette community,

Commencement is one of the highlights of the academic year, and many of us have been working to plan a modified in-person ceremony to celebrate our graduates. For months, we’ve been encouraged by declining case rates and the relatively rapid roll-out of effective COVID-19 vaccines. However, in recent weeks, Oregon has seen the fastest increase in COVID rates in the country, and yesterday, the Governor officially announced that Marion County will move back to the Extreme Risk category. This re-imposes a range of limitations on activities, including event size limits, that will make gathering in person for Commencement impossible.

Unfortunately, and with much regret, we will not be able to come together in person for Commencement, and must instead proceed with a virtual Commencement ceremony. It will still be possible for much smaller groups to gather outdoors for a variety of year-end activities, with masks and distancing, but we do not have that option for the Commencement ceremony itself.

We understand the disappointment this brings for our graduates, which is shared by all of us who hoped to celebrate with you in person. Please know that we considered and pursued many scenarios, which included a formal request for an exemption from the state and county rules. The request was denied. Although several weeks remain before Commencement, the state’s models don’t predict the situation will improve significantly by mid-May.

The virtual Commencement ceremonies will take place as planned on Sunday, May 16, 2021 at the following times:
  • 9:00 a.m. - Atkinson Graduate School of Management
  • 11:30 a.m. - College of Law
  • 2:30 p.m. - College of Arts and Sciences
A streaming link for each ceremony will be shared soon. Commencement coordinators from each school will be in touch with the Class of 2021 in the coming weeks to share plans and logistics for the ceremonies.

To the Class of 2021, the entire Willamette community takes great pride in your achievements -- no matter the format in which we celebrate you. While we would all prefer to be together on campus, we hope that a virtual ceremony will at least provide access to the celebration for those who would not have been able to travel to Salem. We will all be there on May 16th to share in your achievements, which are all the more remarkable for the courage and tenacity you have shown in this historic year.

Commencement Planning Committee