Commencement update

Dear Members of the Cornell Community,

I am delighted to be writing you today to share good news about our plans for in-person Commencement celebrations for the Class of 2021.

We are still awaiting additional guidance from New York state on COVID-19 public health measures for graduation events. But we are moving forward, in the interim, with plans that adhere to ongoing essential public health measures of masking, physical distancing, and outdoor gathering. COVID-19 still poses a health risk to our campus and surrounding communities, and, while vaccination levels are rising, we expect that the pandemic will remain a significant concern throughout the summer. For that reason, it is important to emphasize that all of the below plans are contingent on the public health situation and on state guidance; should COVID-19 cases on campus, or in the region, increase, it remains possible that we may be forced to revise these plans and, potentially, to move all celebrations to a virtual format.

With that understanding, we are excited about our current plans for very special in-person Commencement and Convocation celebrations:

Class of 2021

  • Commencement: The university plans to host in-person Commencement the weekend of May 29-30 in Schoellkopf stadium. To keep density low, we will hold a series of smaller ceremonies instead of our customary singular large Commencement. We are considering a variety of formats, and final decisions will be informed by New York state guidance, but we will include elements of both our traditional stadium ceremony and new elements designed to highlight the very special nature of this year’s event.

  • Attendance: Attendance will be limited to members of the Class of 2021 in Ithaca-based programs. This includes graduating seniors, graduating graduate and professional students, and students who completed degrees in August or December 2020. These graduates, whether currently in the Ithaca area or studying remotely, will all be invited to attend in-person Commencement ceremonies. When invitations are sent out, we will include instructions about the health and safety precautions that must be followed before and during the events.

    Members of the Class of 2021 who currently reside outside of the Ithaca area but wish to return to Ithaca for Commencement will be offered, free of charge, a room in one of the university’s residence halls for a limited time period prior to their graduation ceremony. More information will be shared about the process for requesting a room in the coming weeks. Students returning from outside New York state must follow state travel guidelines.

  • Guests: It is enormously disappointing to all of us that family and friends will not be able to join us in person for these ceremonies; however, we look forward to sharing the celebration with guests near and far virtually via livestream. Recordings will also be made available afterward for those who are unable to view the event live. We are discouraging family or friends from traveling to Ithaca, but, if they do so, please understand that they will not be allowed to enter the stadium or other campus facilities under any circumstances.

  • Convocation: Convocation will be fully virtual. The date has yet to be confirmed and a Convocation speaker has not been finalized.

Class of 2020

  • We are also pleased to announce our plans to honor the accomplishments of the Class of 2020, whose commencement we were not able to celebrate last year. Our plans include:

    • A very special virtual celebration event on Sunday, June 13 at 1:00 P.M. EST as part of Virtual Reunion;

    • An in-person celebration for 2020 graduates and their families to be held in Ithaca during Homecoming 2021 (September 17-19, 2021); and

    • A singular 5th Reunion planned for June 5-8, 2025.

Commencement is the highlight of our calendar at Cornell and marks the tremendous achievements of each year’s graduating class. Even though this year’s ceremonies will look different than they have in years past, we are working hard to ensure that all of this year’s events will become memories to cherish. I look forward to sharing additional details as they become available, and to celebrating your accomplishments, which are even more notable during this extraordinary time.


Martha E. Pollack