Students are awarded degrees every year, of course, but this year, like most other graduation celebrations, the June 14 conferral of degrees for Dartmouth students will be a virtual ceremony rather than a commencement on the Green.
On April 9, President Philip J. Hanlon ’77 announced the postponing of commencement exercises for the Class of 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, saying that holding the annual gathering, with 12,000 people from around the world crowded on the Green would be “simply too great a risk to take.”
Instead, President Hanlon and others will speak this year to graduates from the undergraduate college and graduate and professional schools in the online Celebrating the Moment: Dartmouth 2020 degree conferral ceremony that will have many familiar notes as well as some new features. In June 2021, members of the Class of 2020 will be invited to return to campus for a special commencement event, the details of which are already being planned.
In a surprising twist, this year’s invited speaker is a renowned expert in delivering online education—and he was invited to speak at Dartmouth before classes moved to remote learning.
“There could not be a better time to hear from education innovator Salman Khan,” says Hanlon of the founder of Khan Academy, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to provide a free, world-class education to anyone, anywhere in the world. “I’m so pleased that Sal Khan will speak as part of Celebrating the Moment.”
A former engineer turned hedge fund analyst with degrees from MIT and Harvard, Khan was helping a young cousin with her math in 2004, communicating by phone and using an interactive notepad. When others expressed interest in having his help, he began developing interactive software complemented by videos of his hand-scribbled tutorials on YouTube. Demand took off, and Khan quit his day job in 2009 to devote himself full-time to Khan Academy’s nonprofit mission of “a free world-class education for anyone, anywhere.”
Today, the online academy every month reaches well over 20 million learners in 190 countries and in more than 40 languages. Lessons in math, sciences, and humanities are offered, with learning designed for children from age 2 through early college. Since teaching throughout the U.S. went online as a result of the pandemic, Khan Academy reports that it is experiencing record usage, with more than 100 million registered users.
Khan spoke at Dartmouth in 2012 in the Leading Voices in Higher Education lecture series, long before education was being delivered online worldwide. At the time, he urged the Dartmouth community to send him videos that he could consider using on the Khan Academy website.
In addition to Khan’s speech, Celebrating the Moment will include speeches from Hanlon and one of the undergraduate valedictorians, the Native and Indigenous welcome, an invocation from Rabbi Daveen Litwin, music from the Dartmouth College Glee Club and Dartmouth College Wind Ensemble, and, of course, the official conferring of degrees.
New this year will be a video at the end of the ceremony with the names and photos of members of the undergraduate Class of 2020. Diplomas will be mailed to graduates this summer, as will commemorative programs listing the names of all the graduates.
Families and friends are invited to send photos to appear in a congratulatory video that will run before the June 14 degree conferral ceremony begins. Click this link for instructions on how to send photos, which are due May 31.
Graduates can also send photos of their own June 14 celebrations to be included in a photo gallery later in June. Picture can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org or tagged with #Dartmouth20s on social media.
How to Watch the Celebrations
Here are some of the events leading up to the June 14 degree conferral celebration. Click on the links to learn more about each school’s event. School websites will be updated as more information becomes available.
Saturday, June 6
12 p.m., Class Day, Geisel School of Medicine; keynote speaker is physician Alfredo Quinones-Hinojosa, chair of neurologic surgery at the Mayo Clinic in Florida.
Saturday, June 13
12:30 p.m., Tuck School of Business Investiture
2 p.m., Thayer School of Engineering Investiture
4 p.m., Guarini School of Graduate and Advanced Studies Investiture
Sunday, June 14
10:30 a.m., Baccalaureate, a multifaith service for graduates and their guests; the speaker will be Michael Mina ’06, a physician and assistant professor of epidemiology at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health. His speech is titled “The Benefits of Existing in a Time of Great Uncertainty.”
12 p.m., Dartmouth conferral of degrees ceremony, watch the ceremony here.
Susan Boutwell can be reached at email@example.com.