Commencement in the time of COVID-19

Commencement 2020

With great regret, President Rafael Reif announced on March 24 that the festivities for Commencement 2020 would not take place as planned. Read the full text of the letter

To honor the incredible hard work and accomplishments of our graduating students, Commencement 2020 has two parts:

  • First, an online event on May 29, 2020, to confer degrees (all degrees, all Schools) and to celebrate our graduates.

Video in the Commencement Archive

  • Later, an in-person celebration, to be held at MIT at some point in the future, and including the reading of names.

Summer 2020: What happens now?

The students, faculty, and staff of the Commencement Transition Team—charged with developing the programming for MIT Commencement in 2021 and beyond—has assumed responsibility for planning the in-person event for the 2020 graduates, as well. The Transition Team will adapt celebration plans for both classes in response to Institute directives and decisions regarding public health and safety. This work will continue in the months to come as we watch the development of the COVID-19 situation.

Thank you—We look forward to gathering again in Cambridge as OneMIT.

Online Commencement 2020

Download a PDF of the Commencement 2020 program, including the names of graduates



To The Light, To The Flame
composed by Jamshied Sharifi ’83
performed by The MIT Wind Ensemble
conducted by Frederick E. Harris, Jr.


Robert B. Millard ’73
Chairman, MIT Corporation


Reverend Thea Keith-Lucas
Episcopal Chaplain, MIT

Commencement Address

William H. McRaven
US Navy Admiral, Retired
Chancellor, University of Texas System, 2015–2018


Introduction by Eran Egozy ’95
Professor of the Practice, Music and Theater Arts, MIT


Peter X. Su PhD ’20
President, MIT Graduate Student Council 2018–2020

Salute and Turning of the Class Ring

Nwanacho Nwana ’20
President, MIT Class of 2020

Greetings from the International Space Station

Christopher J. Cassidy SM ’00
US Navy Captain
Commander, Expedition 63

Charge to the Graduates and Conferring of Degrees

L. Rafael Reif
President, MIT

Salute to the Advanced Degree Recipients

Esther Duflo PhD ’99
Abdul Latif Jameel Professor of Poverty Alleviation and Development Economics, MIT

Closing Remarks

Robert B. Millard ’73

School Song

Chorallaries of MIT

Take Me Back to Tech

MIT Community: sing-along!

Welcome into the MIT Alumni Association

R. Erich Caulfield SM ’01 PhD ’06
President, MIT Alumni Association

I wrote “To The Light, To The Flame” in 2015, as a response to the loss of two friends, both around my age, both unexpected losses. It is a meditation on the fragility of our lives, on the paradoxical sense of them being both long and brief, and on the need and wish and desire to live presently, fully, and with intention. It was a gift to the MIT Wind Ensemble and to Fred Harris, and it gives me great pleasure that it has found a place in this time of loss and uncertainty.

While writing the piece I came back several times to Mary Oliver’s poem, “The Summer Day” (printed below).  It was in some way a guide to the composition.

I wish the MIT Class of 2020 the best at this threshold in their lives.

—Jamshied Sharifi

The Summer Day

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean—
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down—
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

—Mary Oliver (1935–2019)

from New and Selected Poems, 1992, Beacon Press, Boston, MA
Copyright 1992 by Mary Oliver. All rights reserved.

For the names of performers, please see our list of thanks and acknowledgments.

Comusica is a participatory music experience featuring the voices of hundreds of 2020 graduates and alumni, stitched together into one of the largest crowd-sourced pieces of music ever undertaken. Read about Comusica in The Boston Globe

A collaboration by Music and Theater Arts, the Office of Digital Learning, MIT Video Productions, Resource Development, Arts at MIT, and the Opera of the Future Group at the Media Lab. Details and full list of credits at the Comusica website

The MIT Parents Association invites you to celebrate the graduates of 2020 with its DIY Commencement Party Kit! The kit includes customizable party decorations, music, a discount code to the COOP to purchase MIT swag, and more.

Graduates: you are invited to sign up for the MIT 2020 App powered by Volaroid! A team of MIT students and alums have built an immersive augmented reality experience to complement the online event...through the app, you’ll be able to create a digital avatar, then see yourself walk down Killian Court and receive your diploma from President Reif. The Volaroid team also will collect these memories to create an archive of the 2020 graduates of MIT.

All are invited to upload a photo for the community mosaic, an MIT Alumni Association project and part of Tech Reunions. As we celebrate the 2020 graduates, you are family, too...join us!

For the names of musicians and contributors, please see the full list of credits and acknowledgments of the many people to whom we are indebted for producing MIT Commencement 2020.

Tag your social media posts with #MIT2020! Connect on Twitter (@MIT, @MITCommencement, @MITStudents, @MIT_Alumni), Instagram (MITpics, MITStudents, MITalumni), and Facebook (, Go to to experience the day through MIT social media accounts.

Yes! You may download a PDF program from the special Commencement celebration broadcast that took place on Sunday, May 31. While it is not required, we would appreciate being notified that you and your family watched that webcast, rather than the one on May 29, so you may be included if there are any follow-up mailings. Contact us

You may see Rabbi Fisher’s invocation on YouTube.

The graduate greetings videos are now available for viewing on the MIT Institute Events YouTube page.

What's next?

Yes. All graduates will receive their MIT diplomas. Timing, delivery method, and other logistics for those who graduated in 2020 are currently being considered. Plans will be posted when finalized.

Please keep your diploma mailing contact information updated in the “contact info” field in your online degree application on WebSIS. This is critical to MIT being able to reach you with official electronic or physical mailings. If you no longer have access to WebSIS, please write directly to the Registrar’s Office with your current contact information.

All graduating students are eligible to receive a digital diploma at no cost. May 2020 degree candidates (all degrees, all Schools) received digital diplomas on May 29. Be sure to download the Blockcerts Wallet app on your mobile device when you receive the invitation from the Registrar’s Office to ensure that you receive your digital diploma as soon as it is available. Read the complete digital diploma information on the Registrar’s Office website.

May degrees were awarded on Friday, May 29. Employers, graduate schools, and other parties can immediately verify digital diplomas using MIT’s verification portal.   

Other options for degree verification are available on the Registrar’s Office website.

All refunds have been processed and accounts credited. Questions? Contact

Doctoral regalia purchase orders have been cancelled and refunded. However, if you still wish to purchase an MIT Doctoral gown, you may do so through Oak Hall.

You will receive your PhD or ScD hood from MIT—they will be mailed to you over the summer. Please do keep your information current in the “contact info” field in your online degree application on WebSIS. This is critical to MIT being able to reach you with official electronic or physical mailings. **If you no longer have access to WebSIS, send a note directly to the Registrar’s Office to provide your current contact info.**

Professor Esther Duflo, who was scheduled to be the guest speaker at the 2020 Investiture of Doctoral Hoods and Degree Conferral Ceremony, took part in the online May 29 ceremony, offering a salute to advanced degree recipients. The Commencement Committee’s work on a future in-person event will begin this summer, and the committee will explore whether there is interest among advanced degree recipients in participating in that event when it is scheduled.

If you think you have not been receiving Commencement-related mailings from MIT, please make sure that the Registrar’s Office has a current email address for you—it is possible that an expired MIT address is the only one on file. If you do not have access to WebSIS anymore, you can write to to provide your updated contact information.

There was no printed Commencement program mailed to graduates in May 2020, however, you may download a PDF version. Those who celebrated Shavuot may download a PDF program from the May 31 broadcast.

The students, faculty, and staff of the Commencement Transition Committee—charged with developing the programming for MIT Commencement in 2021 and beyond—will begin to conceive of an in-person celebration, to be held at MIT at some point in the future. Planning for this special Class of 2020 event will continue in the months to come as we watch the development of the COVID-19 situation.

2020 graduates may send comment to student leadership via

What else?

Yes! You may purchase a cap, gown, and tassel directly from Oak Hall, MIT’s regalia provider. Orders will be shipped directly to you. 

The Coop stores are closed, but the online shop is operational and shipping!

There are two ways to participate:

  1. Share your story! The MIT Libraries’ Department of Distinctive Collections invites students, staff, faculty, researchers, alums, and other MIT community members to contribute materials that will help document the COVID-19 experience at MIT for the Institute Archives. Submissions could include journals, scrapbooks, audio or video recordings, poetry, photos, music, and more.
  2. History of MIT (STS.050) is an MIT class working to document what MIT looks like in this current time of crisis. The class hopes to record the kinds of things that might not get recorded in those types of documentation. Project Endurance is asking the classes of 2020 and 1970 and beyond to submit handwritten or typed letters, photos, and/or anything else about their experiences! They are looking for anything and everything, from letters to photographs, as they support many different forms of submission. All MIT students, alumni, faculty, staff, the broader MIT community, family of MIT members are invited to contribute stories of endurance.