Seated on the Lawn facing the University of Virginia’s newly renovated Rotunda, the Class of 2020 joined together for the very first time at Sunday’s Opening Convocation and Honor Induction.

UVA President Teresa A. Sullivan welcomed the first-year and transfer students in attendance and spoke to them about the age-old traditions they would become familiar with as well as the once-in-a-lifetime opportunities they will be a part of throughout their time at the University.

“You will help us launch a new era for the restored Rotunda, and you will help us celebrate the bicentennial of this great university, which has stood for nearly 200 years as a standard of excellence in higher education,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan also drew upon events from the Olympic Games to offer the class an important analogy regarding their duty to create a supportive and respectful University environment.

“If you watched the swimming competition, you may have noticed something curious: at Olympic swim meets, where the very best swimmers from all over the world compete, they still have lifeguards on duty,” Sullivan said. “Like those Olympic athletes, you are some of the best and brightest students from the nation and the world, but you still need to look out for each other. All of you need to serve as unofficial lifeguards for your classmates – always vigilant, always on duty.”

Take a look as the new first-year students officially joined the University community.

Members of the University of Virginia's Class of 2020 gathered on the Lawn on Sunday evening for Opening Convocation. (Photos by Sanjay Suchak and Dan Addison, University Communications)

Drama Professor Gweneth West, the University’s ceremonial Grand Marshall, led the procession of the platform party down the Lawn.

The UVA University Singers, an a cappella group, provided a soundtrack to the ceremony’s procession.

Nickels provided by the UVA Alumni Association were placed on each seat at Opening Convocation. Sullivan told the incoming students that the nickels – which feature University founder Thomas Jefferson’s image – not only symbolize the involvement of the University’s alumni network, but also serve as a reminder of “the contributions that Thomas Jefferson made to the creation of UVA and to the founding of the United States.”

Students of the incoming class took their seats on the Lawn Sunday evening, signifying the beginning of their journeys at UVA. While 67 percent of the first-year class hails from Virginia, the class also has representatives from 45 states and Washington, D.C., and from 76 countries around the globe.

Dean of Students Allen Groves encourages members of the Class of 2020 to make the most of their time at UVA by taking intellectual risks, immersing themselves in challenges and treating one another with respect.

“When you get to the point in life when you're my age, I want you to look back on the time that you were here as I do and simply smile because this was an extraordinary time in your life,” Groves told the incoming students. 

Student Council President Emily Lodge carried the banner for the Class of 2020, symbolizing the passing of the torch for community responsibilities from one class to another.

“I hope you leave UVA with a head full of dreams, an education that can make those dreams reality and with lifelong friendships that are built from timeless memories,” she told the crowd.

Sullivan asked first-year student Taylor Parsons, who was seated closest to the Lawn rooms in the seventh row, to come forward and read a letter from the Seven Society, UVA’s most secretive secret society, to the Class of 2020.

“It was really great to finally feel like I'm a part of the class and see all these people that I might get to know in the next four years,” Parsons said of being chosen to read the letter.

Dr. Craig Slingluff, a professor in the School of Medicine and a former Honor Committee chair, tells the first-year students that, like the Rotunda, the honor system is a fundamental centerpiece of the student experience.

“But, unlike the Rotunda, it was built by and is maintained by students, and is being given to you to care for,” he said. “This is not being imposed on you, it is being given to you in trust.”

The Class of 2020 includes 3,685 total students. 

Members of the Class of 2020 joined together in the singing of “The Good Ol’ Song” - likely to be the first of many.  

"Wah-hoo-wah, wah-hoo-wah! Uni-V, Virginia!
Hoo-rah-ray, hoo-rah-ray, ray, ray—UVA!"

Per tradition, members of the class were invited to sign the honor pledge, an integral part of UVA’s long-standing system of student self-governance.

By signing the pledge, students join UVA's community of honor and promise not to lie, cheat or steal.

Following Opening Convocation, the members of the incoming class and 675 transfer students were invited to reconvene at Sullivan’s house on Carr’s Hill for a reception.

Media Contact

Kaylyn Christopher

University News Associate Office of University Communications