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Pepperdine University Celebrates Classes of 2020 and 2021 with In-Person Commencement Ceremonies

May 25, 2021  | 3 min read

Graduates from Seaver College's Class of 2020 toss their hats at their commencement ceremony.Throughout May 2021, Pepperdine University celebrated its graduating Classes of 2020 and 2021 across four schools—the Caruso School of Law, the Graduate School of Education and Psychology, Seaver College, and the School of Public Policy—with in-person ceremonies and virtual celebrations. The celebrations come more than a year after the University postponed 2020 commencement ceremonies due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

While COVID-19 conditions steadily improved throughout the spring 2021 semester, the University and each of its schools continued planning for multiple scenarios for commencement ceremonies. In late April, the University received positive guidance allowing limited in-person commencement ceremonies with careful COVID-19 precautions to safeguard the health and well-being of each graduate and their guests. In a few short weeks, each of the schools mobilized to host celebrations honoring the thousands of graduates across the University in both Class of 2020 and Class of 2021.

The School of Public Policy (SPP) kicked off the commencement season on Friday, May 14, 2021, in Alumni Park. With a joint ceremony, SPP celebrated more than 50 graduates in both the Class of 2020 and the Class of 2021. Class of 2021 graduate Abigail Scott gave the student address before Matt Cutler, director of development at SPP, presented Vianey Lopez (MPP ’12) with the Distinguished Alumnus Award. Lopez was honored for her exceptional public service as a government official for more than ten years. 

The Caruso School of Law celebrated the Class of 2021 on May 21, 2021, and the Class of 2020 on May 22, 2021. Graduates and their guests gathered in Alumni Park to celebrate their completion of a master of legal studies, master of dispute resolution, master of laws, and juris doctor. For the Class of 2021 ceremony, School of Law graduate Zachary Carstens delivered a lively student address to his fellow graduates. Pepperdine University president Jim Gash (JD ’93) presented the Distinguished Alumnus Award to Angela Powell (JD ’97) and Virginia F. Milstead (JD ’04) for their dedication to public service. The honorable Consuelo Callahan, who serves as a circuit judge in the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, gave the commencement address at both the Class of 2021 and Class of 2020 ceremonies. 

Seaver College hosted the Class of 2020 and their guests in the afternoon of May 21, 2021. Class of 2020 graduate Payton Silket delivered the student address before Board of Regents board member Alan Beard delivered the commencement address. In the afternoon of May 22, 2021, the Class of 2021 and their guests gathered in Alumni Park to close out the in-person commencement season. Class of 2021 graduate Cameron Lowenfield delivered the student address to fellow graduates before Board of Regents board member Brett Biggs offered his encouragement to students in their journeys in his commencement address. With more than 800 graduates in the Class of 2020 and 900 graduates in the Class of 2021, the ceremonies were arguably the largest class celebrations made possible by expert planning and care from University staff and faculty.

As part of the COVID-19 precautions at all in-person ceremonies, graduates were seated six feet apart and were required to wear facial coverings. Additionally, all guests were required to present ceremony tickets, identification showing their state of residency, and vaccination documentation if applicable. All ceremonies were livestreamed for graduates and their families unable to attend in-person proceedings.

The Graduate School of Education and Psychology (GSEP) held four unique virtual celebrations for its Class of 2020 and Class of 2021 graduates in the education and psychology programs. The ceremonies featured remarks from Pepperdine University provost Rick Marrs, Graduate School of Education and Psychology dean Helen Easterling Williams, and more. GSEP will hold additional in-person celebrations on September 21, 2021, for the Class of 2020 and Class of 2021.