UVA to Celebrate Historic Final Exercises, Spread Over Three Days This Weekend

Graduates embracing each other as they walk

The Class of 2021 will take the traditional walk down the Lawn in five separate ceremonies this weekend, in accordance with state gathering limits. (Photo by Sanjay Suchak, University Communications)

Pomp and circumstance return to the University of Virginia this weekend, when the Class of 2021 will be celebrated over three days in five separate, historic ceremonies.

To comply with state guidance on the size of gatherings due to the pandemic, members of the Class of 2021 will participate in one of five separate ceremonies. Students, faculty members and guests who have been fully vaccinated do not need to wear masks, thanks to new guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Friday, students from the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy, the School of Education and Human Development, the School of Medicine and the School of Nursing will begin their nearly one-mile academic procession from the Rotunda to Scott Stadium, beginning at 9 a.m.

On Friday afternoon, students graduating from the School of Architecture, the School of Data Science, the School of Engineering and Applied Science and the School of Continuing and Professional Studies will begin their walk at 2 p.m.

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Saturday, students in the College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences, UVA’s largest school, will process in one of two ceremonies, at either 9 a.m. or 2 p.m. Graduates were allowed to select which ceremony they would attend.

On Sunday morning, students from the McIntire School of Commerce, the Darden School of Business and the School of Law will make their procession down the Lawn at 9 a.m.

Each of the graduation ceremonies will begin approximately one hour after the procession of each group, each of whom will be welcomed to Scott Stadium by UVA President Jim Ryan.

This year’s commencement speaker is Alexis Ohanian, a 2005 UVA graduate who conceived his multibillion-dollar business, Reddit, as a student in Alderman Library. He has since founded Seven Seven Six, a seed-stage venture fund with more than $770 million under management and a portfolio with $100 billion in market value, with investments in companies like Coinbase and Instacart. He will deliver prerecorded remarks at each of the five ceremonies. The deans of each of UVA’s schools also will speak at their corresponding ceremonies.

Also appearing at each ceremony by magic of prerecording will be Henry Hoyns Professor of Creative Writing and Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Rita Dove, who will read a previously unreleased poem, “Daffodil.”

There also will be some surprise celebrity appearances at each of the five ceremonies, all of which will be livestreamed.

Celebrations for the Class of 2021 kick off Thursday evening with virtual Valedictory Exercises. Class and University awards will be bestowed at the event, which also will feature a performance by “Saturday Night Live” alumnus Jay Pharoah, known for his spot-on impersonations of comedians Eddie Murphy and Chris Rock.

This detailed schedule has more information, including when guests may begin entering Scott Stadium, where they will be able to view the Lawn processions on the Jumbotron as well as Final Exercises ceremonies.

UVA is reserving Sunday afternoon and Monday morning and afternoon for any ceremonies delayed because of severe weather.

Students will receive their diplomas by mail, at the address indicated on their Student Information System record.

UVA welcomed back more than 2,800 members of the Class of 2020 last Sunday for special graduation ceremonies after COVID-19 forced their Final Exercises online last May.

Degrees to be conferred:

UVA will award:

  • 4,505 baccalaureate degrees (242 of these were earned in three years, five in two years). 
  • 467 first professional degrees.
  • 2,522 graduate degrees, including 306 Doctor of Philosophy degrees, 10 Doctor of Education degrees, 17 Doctor of Nursing Practice degrees and three Doctor of Juridical Science degrees.

There are 716 international students in the Class of 2021.

Safety and Security and Text Alerts

Guests should follow UVA’s clear bag policy. Attendees must put their belongings into a clear plastic, vinyl or PVC bag that does not exceed 12 inches x 6 inches x 12 inches. One small clutch bag, approximately the size of a hand, with or without a handle or strap, may be taken to the event along with one clear plastic bag.

Everyone attending Final Exercises, including graduates, faculty members and guests, will be subject to security screening before entering Scott Stadium.

Guests can sign up for text alerts for important information, including potential updates to the Finals Weekend schedule and other important announcements.

Media Contact

Jane Kelly

Office of University Communications