Brandeis Alumni, Family and Friends
‘The Most Resilient Class in Brandeis’ History’ Rejoices at [Re]Commencement
May 23, 2022
This year's commencement exercises allowed the classes of 2020 and 2021 to share their milestone moment together at last.
Several hundred members of the Classes of 2020 and 2021 returned to campus Sunday for [Re]Commencement, a much-anticipated in-person ceremony for graduates whose own commemorations were held virtually during the pandemic.
The two classes gathered in the Gosman Sports and Convocation Center as temperatures soared into the 90s and the threat of lightning loomed. But the forecast was no match for the excitement of classmates and friends reuniting: Thunder roared outside during the invocation, but graduates roared louder upon their introduction.
'Hold on to community'
In her keynote address, Marta Kauffman ’78, H’20, co-creator of the hit sitcoms “Friends” and “Grace and Frankie,” fed off that excitement and used her time on stage to celebrate the importance of friendships forged during one’s college years.
First, she told the story of how she met David Crane ’79, her writing partner of 28 years and co-creator of “Friends,” while at Brandeis. “I spent more time with him than with my ex-husband. Which may explain why he’s my ex-husband,” she joked, garnering big laughs from the graduates.
She also shared how she met her lifelong best friend the day she moved into her first year Brandeis residence hall. Early in their first semester, she said, they started a tradition of going out for pizza every Friday, where inevitably one of them would end up crying. “We felt so many feelings,” Kauffman continued. Today, that friend is the godmother to her daughter, and Kauffman is the godmother to hers.
“So hold on to your community from your time together,” she advised. “The people you've surrounded yourself with when you were here are the people who will be there for you for your most joyous occasions and get you through your hardest times. Be there for each other, lift each other up, champion one another. Then go out for pizza… and have a good cry.”
A permanent part of Brandeis history
In his address, President Ron Liebowitz acknowledged the “social upheaval” that has underscored much of American life for the last half-decade. He told graduates they’re now part of Brandeis’ “bold” history and that their time as students during such a pivotal moment in history will only serve to prepare them to do important work in the future.
“In all challenges, there are silver linings. There are opportunities for hope and vision and opportunities for leadership,” he said. “During your time here, whether that was one, two years ago or more, you developed or imbibed the spirit that makes it more likely than not that you too will find ways to tackle many problems of our time.”
President Liebowitz also recognized two honorary degree recipients from 2020 who were unable to join the [Re]Commencement ceremony in person: Chairman and CEO of Hasbro, Alan Hassenfeld, H’20, and feminist artist Howardena Pindell, H’20. In attendance, Kauffman and Israeli academic and politician, Ruth Calderon, H’20, were also presented with belated honorary degrees.
Long overdue closure and celebration
Graduates in attendance, meanwhile, came back to celebrate [Re]Commencement for a variety of reasons. Some said they just wanted to see friends after being apart for so long. Others said they wanted closure, a more normal conclusion to their college experience that they’d missed. The weight of that, and the uniqueness of the moment, wasn’t lost on the day’s class speakers.
“It feels super surreal to be standing in front of you all today,” said Victoria Richardson ’20, at the beginning of her undergraduate address. “It was two years ago that I graduated from Brandeis University.”
She continued, addressing both graduates of 2020 and 2021 as one group, calling them “the most resilient class Brandeis University has ever seen.”
“I know the journey hasn't been easy, but looking back we know it was so worth it. Please be proud of yourself. Keep being passionate. Keep standing in your truth. Hold with you the lessons this experience has taught you,” she said. “No matter what twists and turns this life throws at you, remember to enjoy the thrill. We graduated during a global pandemic; I think that means we can do anything.”
Jainaba Gaye, Heller MA’21, delivered the graduate student address. During her speech, she told classmates she hopes they begin the next chapter of their lives willing to take risks.
“May you have the courage to fearlessly pursue your dreams, to walk your path and embody all that it means to be resilient and graceful,” she said. “May you have the capacity to be patient with yourselves while life continues to unfold for you. Most importantly, I urge you to recognize that time is one of the most precious and irreplaceable resources that you have.”
The first-of-its-kind [Re]Commencement ceremony followed an earlier, more typical return to normal, as the Class of 2022 was honored in the morning, marking the first time since 2019 that a graduating class was able to gather in person for a commencement ceremony.
There, former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, H’17, shared a message of activism, urging graduates to not give in to cynicism and to remain engaged as citizens.
“Citizenship is an act, a thing you do, not just a thing you are. Its privileges and responsibilities are interdependent, each one making the other both possible and meaningful,” he said. “So, act like it. Make your citizenship personal. Don’t let your stake in your neighbors’ dreams and struggles be a purely abstract idea. Bring it to life in the way you behave and the things you do.”
Later in the day, after both formal ceremonies concluded, 2020 and 2021 graduates filed onto buses for a cathartic afterparty at Time Out Market, a Fenway Park-adjacent food and drink hall. There, graduates toasted the night with flutes of prosecco, reminisced and caught up with one another, before returning to their post-academic lives.
Visit Commencement 2022 for full coverage of Brandeis' commencement day for the classes of 2022, 2021 and 2020.
About the Author
Dave Eisenberg is the integrated marketing and content strategy manager with Brandeis University's Institutional Advancement team. Prior to joining Brandeis, he worked as a content specialist at Perkins School for the Blind, and before that, as a journalist. Outside of work, he enjoys playing guitar and is an avid runner.