‘A part of history’: Commencement ceremonies adapted again for pandemic

By Jon Moss, Editor-in-Chief

The Pitt community came together this spring to celebrate graduating seniors in a COVID-19-friendly way for the second year in a row.

This year’s commencement ceremonies consisted of a series of smaller events for each school, spread out across the month of May and late April, held at either the Petersen Events Center in Oakland or PNC Park on Pittsburgh’s North Side. Last year’s ceremony, which occurred as the COVID-19 pandemic began to hit the United States hard, took place entirely online for the first time in Pitt’s history.

[Photos: Commencement 2021]

Chancellor Patrick Gallagher, speaking Tuesday morning at the ceremony for the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences and College of General Studies, said he was proud of the seniors for getting through an exceptionally difficult academic year.

“I know there were times we weren’t sure we would get here, but here we are,” Gallagher said. “I could not be more proud of this group of Pitt students — they are a part of history.”

Morgan Ottley, the outgoing president of Pitt’s Black Action Society, was the ceremony’s student speaker. She said while much has been done to better campus this year, the “only way” people can continue to strive for change in the world and their own lives is to use their voice.

“Your voice is something we rarely think of, but has so much power and influence,” Ottley, this year’s Omicron Delta Kappa Senior of the Year, said. “A simple but important tool that, when used, could spark change, incite wars, mend hearts and even heal pain. My voice, your voice, our voices, are the most powerful instruments known to man.”

But Ottley said for some people, their voices have been diminished due to factors outside of their own control.

“Having a voice and being able to use it should not be a privilege, nor should having a voice and choosing not to use it be an option” Ottley said. “But if 2020 and 2021 have shown us anything, it is that our voices are catalysts for change. They can create impenetrable barriers and knock down centuries of inequity and inequality.”