Commencement 2021 Announcement, 3/5/21

Commencement 2021 Announcement, 3/5/21

Dear members of the Drew community,

We are nearing the halfway point of the spring semester; soon Commencement will be upon us. This is my first year as your president, and I am enthusiastically anticipating celebrating the accomplishments of this unique Class of 2021, as well as honoring the Class of 2020, who endured so much last year in the early stages of the pandemic and were not able to gather in person for their Commencement.

As an overview, we are planning to hold grouped, in-person Commencement celebrations this May, in addition to a larger virtual ceremony. We will continue to closely monitor the pandemic situation and adhere to the guidelines of public health officials, which could necessitate a pivot—though that is not our expectation or our hope.

The details are outlined below, so I encourage you to read on and visit the Commencement website for further information. Students who are registered to graduate should note an invitation to fill out an interest survey by March 15, 2021 (see below). Although different from Commencement ceremonies of the past, this plan allows us keep Drew traditions alive in the most safe and responsible way.

2021 Commencement Structure

This year our Commencement celebration will begin with a virtual ceremony on Thursday, May 13, featuring the main Commencement address and the awarding of honorary degrees.

Following the main virtual ceremony, we will hold six in-person, outdoor ceremonies on Friday, May 14 and Saturday, May 15, broken down by school and by academic subject area (read more below). Each ceremony will feature school- and area-specific programming. These ceremonies will take place in Ranger Stadium, as it was determined to be the location best situated to ensure the health and safety of graduates, guests, and other ceremony participants.

For the planning of our in-person ceremonies, we anticipate CDC and New Jersey state guidelines will allow for a maximum occupancy of 500 people at an in-person outdoor event. As always, we will adhere to current event occupancies and other guidance from the state. Please note that this stipulation will limit the number of guests that graduates may invite to their respective ceremonies.

Drew will adhere to all COVID-19 protocols in the planning and execution of our Commencement celebrations. Set-up in Ranger Stadium will allow for social distancing at a minimum of 6 feet for all participants and guests. All attendees will be required to wear a face covering at all times while on campus, in accordance with Drew’s health and safety protocols.

The Commencement planning committee would like to understand our graduates’ interest in attending an in-person Commencement event. Students who are registered to graduate are invited to fill out the Graduate Interest Survey by March 15, 2021. A formal invitation with a required RSVP for graduates and guests will follow.

All graduating students—including residential, commuting, and remote students—are invited to participate in in-person Commencement ceremonies and celebrations, as well as the universitywide virtual ceremony.

Class of 2020 Celebration

On May 14, 2021, we are excited to invite the Class of 2020 back to The Forest for their long-awaited in-person Commencement celebration. We will reach out to the Class of 2020 by email with information specific to their participation.

Tentative Commencement Schedule

All times to be announced.

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Virtual Commencement Ceremony honoring the graduating Classes of 2021 (All Schools)

Featuring the main Commencement address and the awarding of honorary degrees

Friday, May 14, 2021

Morning: Theological School Ceremony (Classes of 2020 & 2021)

Afternoon: Caspersen School of Graduate Studies Ceremony (Classes of 2020 & 2021)

Evening: College of Liberal Arts Class of 2020 Ceremony

Saturday, May 15, 2021

Morning: College of Liberal Arts Class of 2021 Ceremony #1

Afternoon: College of Liberal Arts Class of 2021 Ceremony #2

Evening: College of Liberal Arts Class of 2021 Ceremony #3

*CLA Class of 2021 ceremonies will be grouped by academic programs; details to follow.

Commencement Speaker

We are pleased to announce that the Rev. Dr. Calvin O. Butts, III T’82 will deliver the formal Commencement address at the main virtual ceremony on Thursday,  May 14, and receive an honorary doctor of divinity, honoris causa. Dr. Butts is senior pastor of the historic Abyssinian Baptist Church in New York City, and president emeritus of the State University of New York (SUNY) College at Old Westbury. Dr. Butts earned a bachelor of arts in philosophy from Morehouse College in Atlanta, a master of divinity in church history from Union Theological Seminary, and a doctor of ministry in church and public policy from Drew University.

A lifelong advocate for social justice and civil rights, Dr. Butts serves as chair of the Abyssinian Development Corporation, a community-based nonprofit responsible for more than $1 billion in housing and commercial development in Harlem. Dr. Butts also helped establish the Thurgood Marshall Academy for Learning and Social Change, a public middle and high school in Harlem, and is the visionary behind the Thurgood Marshall Academy Lower School.

Throughout his tenure at Abyssinian, Dr. Butts has spearheaded numerous boycotts against institutions that practice racist policies and employment discrimination. Dr. Butts was also instrumental in establishing a church-administered legal defense fund, used to assist members of the Abyssinian congregation and the local community in covering legal expenses.

In addition to his professional and religious avocations, Dr. Butts is a member of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS and a board member of New Visions for Public Schools. He previously served as Chairman of the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS.

Honorary Degree Recipients

The Drew University Board of Trustees has voted to confer honorary degrees on two additional outstanding individuals during the main virtual ceremony on Thursday, May 14.

Yamiche Alcindor, the White House correspondent for PBS NewsHour, will receive the degree doctor of humane letters, honoris causa. Alcindor earned a master’s degree in broadcast news and documentary filmmaking from New York University and a bachelor’s in English, government and African American studies from Georgetown University. Alcindor, a contributor for NBC News and MSNBC, often tells stories about the intersection of race and politics and covers fatal police encounters. Alcindor received the 2020 Aldo Beckman Award for Overall Excellence in White House Coverage from the White House Correspondents’ Association.

The Rev. Alfred T. Day, III will receive the degree doctor of divinity, honoris causa. The Rev. Day recently served as the appointed General Secretary of the General Commission on Archives and History of the United Methodist Church. He received his bachelor of science from Houghton College, his master of divinity from Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary, with additional graduate work at Temple University and Drew University, in Liturgical Studies. In February 2021, the University Board of Trustees officially designated Day as a representative trustee for Bishop Peggy Johnson, on behalf of the Philadelphia area of the United Methodist Church.

Learn more about our honorees on the Commencement website.


To order your Commencement regalia, please visit this website. This year, you have the option to ship items to your home address or to the Bookstore.

Please note the following order deadlines:

  • For Doctoral students ordering custom gowns: March 15, 2021.

  • For Undergraduate/Graduate orders being picked up from the Bookstore: April 6, 2021.

  • For Undergraduate/Graduate orders being shipped to your home address: April 19, 2021.

More information will be shared with graduates regarding regalia, guest tickets, and additional graduate celebrations as it becomes available. Please check the Commencement website for the most up to date information.

This crisis will leave a lasting stamp on all who lived and learned through it—especially the Class of 2020 and the Class of 2021. Not only do we acknowledge their academic achievements, we also note their particular agility, tenacity, and empathy, and we look forward to celebrating them this May.


Thomas J. Schwarz