Pomp Despite Circumstance

Photo: Erin Attkisson

Stanford’s 130th Commencement was almost normal, and man did it feel good. While department ceremonies and Baccalaureate were virtual, seniors celebrated with a Countdown to Commencement party, and the university held two in-person ceremonies—one to confer 3,274 graduate degrees, the other to bestow 1,436 bachelor’s degrees—spread across the stadium grass over two days and with chairs in precise, socially distanced lines. Surgeon, public health researcher and author Atul Gawande, ’87, advised advanced degree candidates to embrace opportunity. Actor, writer and producer Issa Rae, ’07, encouraged the senior class to stay connected. “Trust and believe that your Stanford family will show up for you—in unexpected ways.” 

And then there were the little things: walking wackily, waving at real guests in the stands, putting arms around friends and tossing mortarboards into the cloud-dappled azure sky. After everything, the Class of 2021 graduated in real life, together.

Atul Gawande in cap and gown speaking at the podium.Photo: Andrew Brodhead

Issa Rae at the podium in commencement gown.Photo: Andrew Brodhead

Graduates at Wacky Walk wearing "health check—cleared for graduation" signs.Photo: David Gonzales, ’93

Two female graduates with gowns open, revealing shirts and ties on top, and casual shorts on the bottom; one is holding a sign that says "Zoom outfit."Photo: David Gonzales, ’93 

Graduates dressed as flowers with signs that read "We put petal to the metal."Photo: Erin Attkisson

The Stanford Tree followed by graduates in cap and gown wearing masks.Photo: Andrew Brodhead

Advanced-degree graduate sitting cap and gown, applauding..Photo: Andrew Brodhead

Advanced-degree graduate in cap and gown, smiling.Photo: Andrew Brodhead