Pace Soon to Have First In-Person Commencement Since COVID


On May 16, Pace will be hosting its first in person commencement ceremony since the start of the pandemic.

Emily Teixeira

On May 16, Pace will be having its first formal in person commencement ceremony since 2019. The ceremony will take place at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, New York. Current graduates from Pleasantville, New York City, and Pace’s law school, along with the graduating classes of 2020 and 2021, will be able to attend and celebrate their time here at Pace.

The day will begin at 10:15 AM in Arthur Ashe Stadium with the main ceremony, which will feature speakers, the presentation of honorary degrees, and recognition for award winners. This year, New York City Mayor Eric Adams, Financier and Philanthropist Baroness Ariane de Rothschild, and US Representative for New York’s 6th Congressional District Grace Meng will receive honorary degrees, and senior public relations major Victoria Rooney will be the student speaker.

From there, each school will have their own ceremony for students to be recognized individually, walk across the stage, and receive their diplomas.

Dyson College of Arts and Sciences will have their ceremony in Arthur Ashe Stadium at 12:00 PM while the Elisabeth Haub School of Law has theirs in the Louis Armstrong Stadium. Then, at 2:00, the College of Health Professions and Seidenberg School of Computer Science will have their ceremony in the Louis Armstrong Stadium, and Lubin School of Business will have their ceremony in Arthur Ashe Stadium at 2:30.

In between ceremonies, students and their guests will be able to walk the grounds, socialize, take photos, and purchase food from a variety of vendors. The events will conclude around 4:30.

This is the first time that Pace has held its commencement ceremonies in this manner. In the past, Pace has held separate ceremonies for each of its campuses. However, this year, the school realized that if they wanted to accommodate the classes of 2020 and 2021, they would need a larger venue.

Jean Gallagher, Pace’s Vice President of Strategy and Partnership, was part of the five-person executive group that planned this year’s commencement. She says that the committee wanted to promote a sense of community at this year’s ceremony after all that has happened these past few years.

“I think really coming together as a community during the pandemic, realizing how important it has been to be able to be together as a community and wanting the chance to celebrate that in one venue, that’s really what drove our decision this year,” Gallagher says. “We’re really hoping that people choose to spend the day with us.”

Gallagher also notes the importance of being able to include the graduates that never got the chance to celebrate. She spoke of the early days of the pandemic, when the graduating class of 2020 had their last few months at college taken from them in such an unexpected fashion.

“What we said at that time was that we would have some opportunity for them to celebrate in person in the future,” Gallagher says. “We left it open. And so part of [the upcoming ceremony] is to honor the commitment that we made to that class this year.”

As for the class of 2021, their ceremony was switched to remote relatively late in the semester.

“They really felt that they wanted that opportunity to celebrate with their class and be individually recognized and see their professors, so this is a chance for them to come back, join the community, and do that,” Gallagher says.

Second year graduate student Peggy Gorel finished her undergraduate degree in 2020, and she describes the experience of not being able to have a proper ceremony as “heart breaking”.

“It didn’t feel like an end,” Gorel says, “and I know I wasn’t fully ending because I was coming back for another two years, but I know a few of my friends felt defeated that we worked so hard to not get the recognition that we felt we deserved. We missed out on all the senior activities.”

Now that Gorel has completed her graduate degree, she is excited to celebrate formally.

“Anything where I get to dress up and not sit in my living room in my pajamas is a great improvement to me,” Gorel says.

Kearra Antoian, a senior marketing major from the Pleasantville campus, is also excited to graduate this year. She appreciates that Pace is putting so much time, money, and planning into a big event in light of everything this year’s graduates have dealt with since the start of the pandemic.

“I think it’s awesome that we’re getting the opportunity to have it in person,” Antoian says. “It’s pretty cool that we’re able to also find a location big enough to unite all the campuses and celebrate in such a big way, as well as include 2020 and 2021 grads who didn’t get that same opportunity and let them come back and let them get it once and for all.”

Law student Philip Monteiro believes that this year’s plans reinforce the fact that we are all part of one university by having all campuses represented, and he is happy that the classes of 2020 and 2021 will finally get a real graduation. He is a bit concerned about logistics, particularly the issue of transportation and the fact that the event is being held on a Monday. However, he does look forward to the ceremony.

“Although it will be sad to leave the fun parts of school behind, I’m excited to finally receive the degree that I’ve been working so hard for and I’m eager to jump fully into the real world,” Monteiro says.

Bukuriya Choudhry, a business management and arts and entertainment management major from the New York City campus, is pleasantly surprised that she will get the chance to graduate in person.

“At the beginning of last semester, I kept thinking that I would get an email from Pace saying our graduation was also going to be virtual despite everything on campus being in person,” Choudhry says. “I’m so glad to have it in person and get to enjoy it with the friends I’ve had since freshman year. COVID messed everything up in our timeline which makes it hard to have hope for future events knowing they might not be able to pull through. With mandates going away and cases going down, I can say I have newfound hope for everything coming my way.”

While Choudhry thinks it would have been better for Pace to give each graduating class their own day instead of having one long event for everyone, and while her class expected to graduate from Radio City Music Hall, she takes comfort in the fact that a larger venue will allow her whole family and best friend to come support without fighting for tickets. She is excited to graduate but admits that it will be weird not having a school schedule for the first time since she was a preschooler.

“I’ve had such an amazing time with the friends I made in freshman year and glad to know we’re going to be by each other’s side post grad,” Choudhry says. “It sounds so crazy to even think I made it to my senior year. My four years here have been nothing but happiness and great vibes. Working at PaceBound and other volunteer events on campus also made me realize how much I’m going to miss being at Pace.”

Like Choudhry, Monteiro feels strange knowing that his formal schooling years are over. However, he has many positive takeaways from his time here at Pace.

“I learned much more than I thought I would,” Monteiro says. “I made great memories with the Pace Pep Band and enjoyed serving as president of the Pace Military Law and Veterans’ Society (MILVETS). I tried new things, such as my short stint as a staff writer with Hearsay – Haub Law’s student newspaper. Most importantly, I’ve met many great people along the way.”

Antoian cannot believe that her graduation date is so close at hand, and she feels like her college experience has gone by quickly. She says that her favorite takeaway from her time at Pace is the friends she made along the way.

“You meet so many people at college and you don’t realize that, looking back, a lot of your memories are because of the people that you met and the time you spent with them,” Antoian says. “It was especially difficult because of the shutdown. Most of my friends have transferred, or I haven’t been able to see them as much due to our increasing schedules and workloads and all that stuff. So I think it’s just important to cherish the moment and enjoy the time with your friends that you have, because college is only four years for most people. It seems long when you’re a freshman, but time flies by once you’re a senior.”

For Gorel, the best thing that she found as a Pace student was herself.

“Before coming to Pace, I didn’t really have a voice,” Gorel says. “I didn’t really have a direction for what I wanted to do. Coming to Pace helped me figure out who I am as an individual and helped me find my voice. I figured out how to stand out from the crowd and be my true self. And RHA always has my heart. That was my baby.”

Gallagher says that she has missed commencement these past two years, and she is happy that it is back.

“My role is not one in which I get the chance to work with students on a day-to-day basis,” Gallagher says. “Attending commencement has always been for me and many of my colleagues a chance to see and celebrate what our work is all about. People choose to work at universities for a variety of reasons, but when you see students celebrating with their families, walking across the stage, recognizing their accomplishments, that really brings home what working here means to all of us.”

As of right now, Pace is unsure if this year’s commencement format will carry into future years. That decision will be based on the outcome of this year’s events and feedback from the community.

Gallagher encourages students to be on the lookout for email updates regarding the upcoming ceremony and to check the Pace Commencement website for additional information. She would also like to extend her sincere congratulations to this year’s graduates.

“I can’t say that enough to our graduating class this year,” Gallagher says. “I’m truly impressed with the way that people have persisted through, not only in their classes, but in all of their activities, athletics, academic teams, off campus jobs, on campus jobs, internships, clinicals, student teaching, all of that.”