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Catholic U grads get tweet speech

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In April, The Catholic University of America in Washington announced that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, its usual commencement events held on the east steps of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington wouldn’t be possible this year.
In May, the university shared that it would move forward with awarding honorary degrees, including one to its planned graduation speaker Kevin Ryan, a 1999 alumnus. Ryan is president and CEO of Covenant House, the largest privately funded agency in the Americas providing shelter, food, immediate crisis care, and an array of other services to homeless and runaway youths.

In response to that announcement, Ryan tweeted: “Thank you Pres. Garvey for this honorary degree, 31 years after my @CatholicUniv graduation. I met my love, mentors & friends here, & am grateful to return. And honestly, this degree was much easier than the first one. Congratulations Class of 2020.”

In the week leading up to commencement May 16, Ryan offered a “commencement address” on Twitter. He also shared the short “speech” in the comments of the livestreamed degree conferral ceremony when it began, saying, “Congratulations to the Class of 2020. I am so sorry I cannot be with you today in person to give the graduation speech but I am cheering you all in spirit.”

Andrea Roane, former news anchor for WUSA9 and former university trustee, served as emcee for the online event. It featured speeches by Brendan Dillon, a member of the Class of 2020; Catholic U. President John Garvey; and Aaron Dominguez, provost. Washington Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory, university chancellor, led the invocation and conferred the ecclesiastical degrees. Franciscan Father Jude DeAngelo, university chaplain, closed the ceremony with a benediction.

Close to 4,000 tuned in from across the country for the ceremony, and the livestreamed event ended with a Zoom call showing the graduates from their homes, many celebrating in caps and gowns. Family members and friends of the graduates joined Ryan, faculty and staff in sharing their personal congratulations in the comments of the livestreaming platform. The university hopes to have an on-campus commencement ceremony with Ryan and the other honorary degree recipients in August. 

Each school within the university was encouraged to hold a smaller ceremony to recognize its students and their achievements. The Busch School of Business faculty and staff quickly created a new plan for celebrating.

“We are very proud of our Busch School 2020 graduates,” said Dean Andrew Abela. “In these difficult times, they leave ready and prepared to be a force for good.”
The school’s virtual ceremony opened with Red, the university mascot, searching Maloney Hall for the Busch School ceremony. The last room he visited was the Della Ratta Auditorium, where he found Abela facing more than 200 photos of graduating students taped to empty chairs. 
Alumni warmly welcomed the new graduates to the alumni family along with the school’s benefactors, Tim and Steph Busch. 

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2020