Graduates walk across the grass Goodman Stadium.

Graduates approach the stage where they were recognized for their accomplishments at Graduate Commencement Ceremony for the Classes of 2020 and 2021 on Friday afternoon at Goodman Stadium.

Lehigh holds Doctoral Hooding, Commencement for Graduate Students

Those receiving master’s and doctoral degrees from the Class of 2020 and the Class of 2021 were honored in a joint ceremony Friday afternoon.

Story by

Stephen Gross

Photography by

Christa Neu

On a sun-soaked Friday afternoon at Goodman Stadium, Lehigh celebrated those earning master’s and doctoral degrees over the past two years, navigating both their academic responsibilities and the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Graduates, you have not only mastered the rigors of advanced academia, you have done so—successfully—during a global pandemic,” Lehigh President John D. Simon ’19P said at the Graduate Commencement Ceremony for the Classes of 2020 and 2021. “One day, when you’re my age, it will be a story to tell younger generations.”

For the second consecutive year, Lehigh’s Commencement ceremonies differed from the typical schedule of events due to the pandemic. Instead of a more intimate Doctoral Hooding Ceremony, Lehigh conferred 549 master’s degrees and 104 Ph.Ds for the Class of 2021 together with the Doctoral Hooding Ceremony.

Nadine Clopton singing

Nadine Clopton '19 '20G sang both the national anthem and Lehigh's alma mater.

With all in-person ceremonies last spring postponed, the Class of 2020 was invited to join in the Graduate Commencement Ceremony, with Lehigh also recognizing the 342 master’s degrees and 56 Ph.Ds conferred virtually last May. 

Lehigh Board Chair Kevin L. Clayton ’84 ’13P opened the ceremonies by introducing Simon, and thanking him for his leadership at the university over the past six years. The 2021 Commencement ceremonies are Simon’s last as president. He will step down at the end of June and Joseph J. Helble ’82 will assume the presidency Aug. 16.

After welcoming those in attendance, Simon noted the additional challenges both classes faced beginning in March 2020. He also thanked the graduates’ families for their support, which was even more critical “in the face of tremendous uncertainty.” In addition, Simon recognized the faculty and mentioned the bond created between graduate students and their professors.

“All of you exhibit the best of the Lehigh spirit—the grit and determination to get the job done that is a hallmark of our great university,” Simon said.

Nick Ungson speaking at Commencement

Nick Ungson '15G '20Ph.D. told his fellow graduates they give him hope at having persevered through the recent challenges.

Simon introduced the first of two student speakers, Nick Ungson '15G '20Ph.D., who had been the president of the Graduate Student Senate. Ungson earned his doctorate degree in psychology and previously earned a Master of Science degree in psychology.

Ungson acknowledged the difficulties everyone around the world has faced due to COVID-19, but told graduates they give him hope at having persevered through the recent challenges. He said he has confidence they will use the strength, perseverance and tenacity that got them to where they are today to “move forward with hope and creativity, with empathy and compassion.”

“We can't change the past,” Ungson said, “but I am hopeful because we have the skills to mold the future, the tools to create a society that protects its most vulnerable, the courage to ask the important questions: What does it mean to be a good person? What does it mean to look out for one another and build a fair and equitable society in which we all feel safe and supported enough to thrive and live our best lives?”

Joydeep Munshi speaks at Commencement

Joydeep Munshi '21Ph.D. discussed the path that led him to an “incredible and memorable” journey at Lehigh.

Simon then introduced speaker Joydeep Munshi ‘21 Ph.D, who earned his doctorate degree in mechanical engineering.

Munshi noted the personal impact of the pandemic—due to the COVID-19 crisis his home country of India is currently facing, his parents were not in attendance at the ceremony. He empathized with his fellow graduates facing a similar situation. In addition to thanking his parents, Munshi also offered gratitude to his advisor, Ganesh Balasubramanian, associate professor of mechanical engineering and mechanics, for being a motivator and mentor, and his wife for support.

He also explained difficulties he experienced prior to the pandemic—Munshi transferred to Lehigh just days after arriving in the United States and starting at Iowa State University. The transition, which included another new time zone, cultural gaps and both geographical and environmental differences, proved to be difficult, Munshi said. His fortunes eventually turned as he became acclimated, meeting his future wife and beginning to enjoy his research at Lehigh along with collaborations with research groups at other universities. It was motivation, he said, such as Balasubramanian saying—“To achieve something pathbreaking, first we shall be building the path slowly and efficiently,”—that led him to an “incredible and memorable” journey at Lehigh.

In closing, Munshi quoted Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore in hopes of motivating his fellow graduates as they look to contribute and make an impact on society: “Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high. Where knowledge is free. Into that heaven of freedom, my Father let my country awake.”

Doctoral candidates and those receiving master’s degrees were asked to rise by their respective College. Degrees were conferred by Simon before the name of each graduate was read by the College’s dean as they were individually recognized on stage. Doctoral graduates were recognized first and were hooded at this time.

Just over 400 graduates attended Friday’s ceremonies with more than 2,300 in attendance including guests, faculty and staff. The event was streamed live for graduates and their friends and family unable to attend.

Story by

Stephen Gross

Photography by

Christa Neu

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