COVID-19 has affected us all in many ways since its unwelcomed arrival in early 2020. Deaths, sickness, separation of family and loved ones, financial loss, and mental and emotional stress, just to name a few.
Over time, many voices and experiences have been drowned out in the perpetual upheaval, including the plight of Castleton University’s Class of 2020 and students’ experiences in the midst of an untimely epidemic.
Like many other graduating classes of that year, the Castleton class of 2020 was unable to have a graduation ceremony. In an effort to amend this unfortunate reality, the Castleton University Alumni Board hosted a celebratory reunion on the evening of Sept. 17, in hopes that graduates would gather together for a few hours of good food, lively conversation and exciting prizes.
Despite the event’s thoughtful and considerate intentions, the turnout left much to be desired. Only five graduates made an appearance, along with a handful of former alumni and guests. Regardless, the show went on, beginning with a few words from the Vice President of the graduated class, Aaliyah Edmonds.
“It feels nice to be back on campus,” she gratefully remarked. “To finally see the parking lots full. You’d never see cars on campus, but now that we’re back, it feels like home again. I think it’s the closure we all needed.”
President Jonathan Spiro soon followed with his opening address, stating, “It’s not how we wished to celebrate your senior year,” and that the Castleton community is “still remorseful” that they were unable to have a traditional graduation.
He also expressed his pride in the class’s resilience, and rightfully coined them as the “meek-and-to-never-be-forgotten class of 2020.” He said that although they took the brunt of Covid’s effect on the academic school year, they are still a valued and recognized part of the community.
Lastly, President of the Alumni Association Toni Dobell stepped up to the podium to describe their mission, which is “to support the relationship between current students, the university, and alumni.” She added that the association is over 18,000 members strong and will continue to keep growing.
She then proceeded to present Professor Andre Fleche with the Outstanding Faculty Award and the Leonard C. Goldman Distinguished Senior Award to Izzy Gogarty, which they both delightedly received.
Gogarty passionately described Castleton as “transformational,” adding that the university has given her so many opportunities to network throughout her time there. She added that they taught [her] not what to think but how to think.
On behalf of the majority of 2020 graduates that didn’t attend, Media and Communication major Jay Mullen shared an outside perspective on the event and last year’s unfortunate closure.
“Hearing that only five people attended the class of 2020 reunion event is depressing, but it isn’t shocking,” he said. “I do know from speaking to classmates of mine that they feel Castleton could have put forth a better effort in putting on a graduation ceremony like so many other schools did.”
He explained that some possible reasons for the low turnout could include living too far away or being unable to take time off from work, but that the most likely reason, in his opinion, was their disappointment in how the school handled the circumstances.
“I personally didn’t mind the lack of a graduation ceremony, but I wanted to have the opportunity to say goodbye to the friends and faculty who made my time at Castleton so memorable … I still get upset thinking about that. I really wanted that closure, and I’m sure that’s not a unique feeling,” he said.
Despite his understandable disappointment, he ended on a positive note.
“It was such a great time in my life, I look back now and smile at the memories I made in my two years there” and he said he has “nothing but love for Castleton and [his] former classmates.”
He also requested a shoutout for his original podcast, “What’s Up, Jay,” available on all streaming services.