Campus Life

UWF celebrates spring and summer graduates with first virtual commencement

Commencement is a significant moment in the lives of graduates and their loved ones who supported them through their educational journey. On Saturday, August 8, the University of West Florida Class of 2020 spring and summer graduates celebrated that milestone and etched their names in University history as participants in the first virtual commencement.

A UWF student takes a moment to tour the UWF campus and reflect on her last four years on April 7, 2020. Although unconventional circumstances have cancelled a traditional commencement ceremony, UWF graduates are still able to celebrate their achievements.

UWF hosted the virtual commencement in response to the State University System of Florida directing all state universities to postpone in-person spring and summer commencement ceremonies due to COVID-19 health guidelines on gatherings. The University helped its approximately 2,500 graduates celebrate in style by mailing each a gift package that included an alumni letter, a letter from the president, a commencement program, a mini-UWF pennant, a diploma holder, an alumni button and a wine glass.

Although in a virtual format, the commencement included some time-honored traditions. UWF Board of Trustees Chair David Cleveland greeted the graduates and President Martha D. Saunders provided opening remarks.

“I think it’s safe to say this has been quite a year,” Saunders said. “Things have changed, and we have learned a great deal about how to adapt. Please take a moment now to take a deep breath, marvel at how far you have come in your life and give yourself a hug. You did it! You completed the course and you faced hurdles most have never experienced.”

Saunders concluded her opening remarks by introducing the commencement speaker, Florida Lt. Gov. Jeanette Núñez. Nunez commended the graduates’ perseverance in facing unimaginable obstacles.

“Your ability to make sacrifices during this time and your resilience is an example for us all,” Nunez said. “Now more than ever our state needs your knowledge, your talents and your skills. As UWF proudly proclaims, you are the next generation of big thinkers who will change the world.”

Zenani Johnson, the 2019-20 SGA president and a Spring 2020 graduate, followed Núñez with the student address.

“We graduate as the most tech-savvy class so much so that we were the first class to graduate virtually,” Johnson said. “Yet most of all, we graduate as the most resilient class—a class that will be bonded for life by more than just a graduation date and time, but bonded for life by what we experienced together as the Class of 2020.”

The name of each graduate along with their degree, including major and minor, appeared on the screen as part of the commencement ceremony. The presentation included submitted photos of graduates in regalia or participating in memorable moments at UWF.

Saunders delivered the closing remarks, encouraging graduates to make informed decisions as they navigate a rapidly changing world—as evidenced by their participation in the first virtual commencement ceremony.

“So now you are alumni of the University of West Florida,” she said. “Your task is simple. Take the education we have given you here and make it count. As you move through a rapidly changing world, you will make countless decisions that will have an immediate impact on your life and the lives of others. Make those decisions based on the best information you can find. Do your best. Press on.”

To view the UWF Virtual Commencement Spring and Summer 2020, visit the UWF Facebook page.