A Year of Commencement Firsts

The year 2021 was a year of firsts for many reasons, and Commencement was no exception.

Members of the Class of 2021 at commencement.
Members of the Class of 2021 at commencement.

The year 2021 was a year of firsts for many reasons, and Commencement was no exception. Due to capacity restrictions in place because of the pandemic, and for the first time in University history, separate ceremonies were held for the University’s graduate students and each of the three colleges. All took place at the Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza, Wilkes- Barre. The University conferred more than 800 bachelor’s degrees at its in-person undergraduate ceremonies on May 23 and more than 500 master’s and doctoral degrees the previous day.

Each of the four ceremonies included a tribute to the late Rev. Scott R. Pilarz, S.J. H’15, who served as the University’s 24th and 27th president. A recorded principal address was given by Susan M. St. Ledger ’86, president of worldwide field operations for Okta, Inc., at the undergraduate ceremonies. St. Ledger received an honorary degree from the University along with Rev. Otto Hentz, S.J., associate professor of theology, Georgetown University; and Nicole Young ’00, Emmy Award-winning producer for “60 Minutes.” Rev. Columba A. Stewart, O.S.B., executive director of the Hill Museum and Manuscript Library at St. John’s University, received his honorary degree on Oct. 21, on campus.

In a recorded address played at each undergraduate ceremony, St. Ledger told the members of the Class of 2021 that their “life as a student never ends.” Reflecting on lessons taught to her by her father, Dave, who is also a University alumnus, she told the graduates, “My father taught me that the purpose of education, whether it’s grade school or college, is to learn how to learn, so you understand how to learn for the rest of your life.”


This year, on May 21, the University also held its first in-person Donning of the Kente Stole Ceremony to celebrate and honor the accomplishments of 45 members of its Class of 2021 from underrepresented identities who received their undergraduate degrees. The purpose of the ceremony was to highlight the success in overcoming the particular barriers and obstacles students from these groups face, particularly students of color, in attaining a higher education. For the past two years, the Multicultural Center set out to explore opportunities to recognize and celebrate the accomplishments of students from underrepresented identities approaching graduation. The Donning of the Kente Stole Ceremony was a student-led initiative that started with the research of Camila Robles ‘19, and the vision of Aba Amon-Kwafo ‘20, who led the efforts to develop the proposal and approval of the Donning of the Kente Stole Ceremony and set the foundation for the ceremony to become a University Commencement event.

And in yet another first: On July 12, Scranton conferred doctor of business administration (DBA) degrees to the first cohort of students to graduate from the program at a special ceremony in the McIlhenny Ballroom of the DeNaples Center.

The University’s DBA program with a concentration in accounting was developed to provide experienced practitioners with a practical pathway to an academic career at a school of business that possesses or is seeking formal accreditation by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB International).

Watch the Commencement ceremonies here.

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