The Class of 2020 Perseveres

When the pandemic upended their senior year, they did what they learned to do at Scranton: come together as a community.

Class of 2020 on Move-in Weekend, 2016.
Class of 2020 on Move-in Weekend, 2016.

They had big plans, but one of their first lessons as new graduates was learning to adapt those plans. The Class of 2020 graduated in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Their final semester was upended when they were sent home for spring break. They said quick goodbyes to their friends, unsure of when they’d be back to campus.

They ended up finishing their senior year remotely, celebrating their graduation virtually and wondering if that job they secured earlier in the year would still be there for them, if they should put off their graduate school plans or if the high school where they had volunteered to teach would even open in the fall.

But, it turns out, Scranton had prepared them in ways they hadn’t even known. And the community they relied on during their years at Scranton continued to buoy their spirits.

“Dealing with the pandemic has shown me that in order to succeed, you must be willing to adapt and persevere."
- Fahad Ashraf '20

‘All in’

Jack Garvey ’20 began serving with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps as a classroom aide at the Cristo Rey Boston High School in Boston this fall. At Scranton, he learned that you get out what you put in, which, he said, already has motivated him as a teacher.

“The staff here are always asking each other, ‘What can I do now?’ or ‘How can I help?’ They are ‘all in’ with Cristo Rey, because they want their students to have the best experience possible,” said Garvey. “I think continuing with this experience at Cristo Rey, and in being a Jesuit Volunteer, I'll get out what I put in — Scranton has taught me to be ‘all in’ with things I am passionate about.”

Unlike Garvey, Fahad Ashraf ’20 decided to change his post-graduation plans. Having been accepted to medical school, he would take a gap year instead.

“Dealing with the pandemic has shown me that in order to succeed, you must be willing to adapt and persevere,” said Ashraf. “Not everyone has the same path to success, but if you keep working hard, adapt to your circumstances and learn from your experiences, you will find your own way. I am excited to enter medical school with this mindset next year.”

Here for Support

Knowing that new alumni were grappling with an uncertain job market, the Alumni Society and the Center for Career Development launched a monthly Post-Scranton Survival Guide email for the Class of 2020.

“We are still here for you. We still want to help you. We still want to make sure that you are on the path to success,” said Chris Whitney, director of the Center for Career Development, in the first Post-Scranton Survival Guide video. “We’re here to help you in any way we can.”

In addition to support from the University, warm wishes to the graduates also flooded in from family, friends and alumni on social media and through messages to “Royals with Love,” which was featured on the commencement website.

“I am sure it was not easy to part ways way back in March,” Anne Ferketic ’19 wrote to the Class of 2020. “If you missed being at school, know it is because you loved it, and you can continue to love and be a part of the University of Scranton through alumni events and the love you bring to your future communities. Don’t hesitate to pick up the phone and call each other.”

"Adversity does not build character. Adversity reveals character, and you have revealed your character..."
- Scott R. Pilarz, S.J., University President, to the Class of 2020

A Celebration to Remember

Although the graduates expected an in-person commencement ceremony to take place in October, they knew the pandemic might linger on and not allow it. Plans change, they were learning. The ceremony did eventually have to be canceled, but virtual celebrations in May allowed them to come together for a meaningful sendoff, including Class Night, a Mass for the Class of 2020, ROTC Commissioning, a Nursing Blessing of the Hands Award Ceremony, and Graduate and Undergraduate Commencement Celebrations featuring encouragement from many members of the University community and even from several cast members of “The Office.”

Hailey Marie Kindt ’20 spoke at the virtual Undergraduate Commencement Celebration.

haileycommencement.jpeg“When we left campus mid-March, uncertain of our return, for long-awaited lasts, one word brought me solace: gratitude. I was grateful to have something that made leaving abruptly so heartbreaking,” said Kindt. “There’s something very special about Scranton that I always struggled to put into words, but it’s simple: It’s the people, the community, that has transformed each of us in some way since move-in day. Today and every day, let us be grateful for those people.”

In his remarks, University President Scott R. Pilarz, S.J. told graduates “adversity does not build character. Adversity reveals character, and you have revealed your character in all of the things that have marred your college experience.”

He went on to announce that St. Thomas Gateway would be named “The Class of 2020 Gateway” in their honor.

When they visit campus next, the Class of 2020 will be able to stand in front of their Gateway, reminisce about their time together before COVID-19 and be proud of what they were able to accomplish in the face of adversity.

“I know whenever the pandemic ends, Scranton will be there waiting for us,” said Garvey.

YouTube thumbnail

Meet Several Members of the Class of 2020

Jack Garvey

Meet Jack Garvey ’20, who is serving with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps as a classroom aide at the Cristo Rey Boston High School in Boston.

Major(s)/Minor(s): History major with a political science minor
Extracurricular Activities at Scranton: Co-captain of the Electric City Scranton Ultimate Frisbee team & Student Assistant at the Center for Service and Social Justice
One word to describe the University: Community
Food on campus you’ll miss the most: Twice-baked potatoes and raspberry chicken
Most important thing you’ve learned at the University: I’ve learned that people love to support each other. You know people care about you when they root for you during your good times and when they lift you up when you need help — those are your real friends. I found those people at Scranton, and it’s encouraged me to do the same for others.
What graduating during the pandemic has taught you: If graduating during a pandemic has taught me anything, it's to be flexible. Not everything will work out as planned, as we've seen in the past six months, but, to give the Cristo Rey students the experience they deserve, myself, the teachers, staff and administration have to be willing to change at a moment's notice and adapt to new circumstances — always finding ways to help each student.
What hopes you have for the Class of 2020: I miss Scranton, and I miss all the people who made it so special for me. I hope the Class of 2020 is going strong, and I know whenever the pandemic ends Scranton will be there waiting for us. I'd also like to thank Father Pilarz for the love he has shown the entire student body — I can feel that love all the way up here in Boston.

Morgan Murphy

Meet Morgan Murphy ’20, who is a leasing consultant for Ginsburg Development Companies in Westchester, New York.

Major/minor: Human Resources Management Major, Business Minor
Extracurricular activities at Scranton: Intern at the Gerard R. Roche Center for Career Development, Student Government, Society for Human Resource Management, Lifeguard, Swim Team, Her Campus
How Scranton prepared you for your job: Scranton has given me the necessary public speaking, interpersonal, social and practical skills to succeed in the workforce. From my classes, internships and volunteerism, I have gained the necessary knowledge to become a professional.
One word to describe the University: Magical
Food on campus you'll miss the most: Chick-fil-A
Most important thing you've learned at the University: Take risks and get comfortable feeling uncomfortable!
How the pandemic has shaped your perspective: Be willing to learn new things, network with anyone and everyone (even from home!), stay positive and keep the faith!
Tell us about your class: The Class of 2020 is resilient, optimistic and will “set the world on fire!!!”

Nora Boussatta

Meet Nora Boussatta ’20, who works for 1Huddle, a competitive game platform that onboards new hires.

Hometown: Bloomfield, New Jersey
Major(s)/Minor(s): Marketing/Business analytics
Extracurricular Activities at Scranton: Marketing society president, Mu Kappa Tau, Omega Beta Sigma, Track & Field
One word to describe the University: Home
Food on campus you’ll miss the most: Coffee cake from third-floor DeNaples
Most important thing you’ve learned at the University: Never take anything for granted.
How Scranton has prepared you for the real world: During my time at Scranton, I learned how to perfect networking by using informational phone calls, which was pivotal in landing a job during the pandemic. If you can network well and build strong and lasting relationships, you can find a great job in any climate. The earlier you can start the better.
Message for your class: I am wishing them the best. We are a class that can adapt and pivot when faced with adversity.

Fahad Ashraf 

Meet Fahad Ashraf ’20,who was accepted to medical school but is taking a gap year because of the pandemic.

Hometown: Clarks Summit
Major(s)/Minor(s): Biology and Philosophy majors, English and Biochemistry minors
Extracurricular Activities at Scranton: President of Student Government, Special Jesuit Liberal Arts Honors Program, The University of Scranton Honors Program, Clinical Scribe Manager at the Leahy Clinic, Orientation Assistant, ISP participant, biology research
One word to describe the University: Transformative
Food on campus you’ll miss the most: Gnocchi with blush sauce on third-floor DeNaples!
Most important thing you’ve learned at the University: Being bold and going out of your comfort zone is worth it! Especially during a time where everyone feels so much uncertainty, getting involved will help you make connections that can last a lifetime. These connections are essential as you pinpoint your passions, and the best way to make them is to challenge and push yourself wherever possible.
How the pandemic has shaped your perspective: Dealing with the pandemic has shown me that in order to succeed, you must be willing to adapt and persevere. Not everyone has the same path to success, but if you keep working hard, adapt to your circumstances and learn from your experiences, you will find your own way. I am excited to enter medical school with this mindset next year.
Message to your class: To the Class of 2020, I want to applaud us on finishing college as strongly as we did, in the most unconventional way. While our commencement ceremony had to be canceled due to the pandemic, I have no doubt that we will have an opportunity to see each other again in some way in the near future, to celebrate in the way we deserve.

 Chris Baldwin

Meet Chris Baldwin '20, who had planned to go to Shenzhen, China, to teach English. He is now awaiting an interview for the Peace Corps. 

Hometown: Queens, New York
Major: International Relations
Extracurricular activities at Scranton: Cross Country, Track and Field
One word to describe the University: Ethical
Food on campus you’ll miss the most: Chicken Fried Steak & Break Bar (every Friday)
Most important thing you’ve learned at Scranton: My cross-country coach, Bill Burke, has really taught many things regarding running, life and being a good student. But what he has taught me most importantly is fighting off and resisting the inner voice of weakening preventing me from reaching my fullest potential.
Message to your class: We must see the light at the end of the tunnel or the sunshine over the horizon (as cheesy as that sounds). I believe the word to describe the Class of 2020 would be "resilient."


I pass along the words of advice that I received, on move-in day, from Father Panuska, the then-president: "Do not live your life with parenthesis around it." Although you have had four wonderful years at the University, be assured that it will continue. Go forth and shine!! We need you. Congratulations!! – Kathy Megliola ’86

… This is good preparation for the next chapter of your lives. You've conquered the art of online learning, patience, finding creative ways to communicate and rolling through the sea of ambiguity that is life. This is just a small stepping stone to the endless possibilities that await. You've got this. Never forget to “Go forth and set the world on fire.” – Alyssa Mancini ’12

I know that there is a lot of uncertainty in the world right now, but what the world needs to recover are social justice warriors, women and men for and with others, and people who wear their hearts on their sleeves and do such great things for others. In other words, what the world needs now are ROYALS like yourselves to go forth and set the world on fire. #AlmaMaterOursAlways – James Troutman ’11

Congratulations! Enjoy and celebrate. Feel good and proud of all you have accomplished. The University of Scranton is a very special place that will always live in your hearts. – Maura Kilner, Parent

Your life began in the shadow of 9/11, you grew up during the Great Recession, and now you're being tested by a pandemic. You are tested, tried and true. You will be the leaders this world will need for the century ahead. Congrats. – Steve Carmondy ’85

Message to Class of 2020: On this special day, I would like to congratulate you for a job well done. I want to take this chance to encourage you in whatever you choose to do in the future. On this graduation day, you must look ahead and dream of all the bright possibilities that your future holds for you. May all your dreams come true! – Pamela Elefonte, Parent

Scroll to Top