One JWU: Celebrating Commencement 2020

While COVID-19 made celebrating Commencement on campus — and in person — impossible (at least for now), that didn’t stop faculty, staff, students, new graduates and alumni alike from celebrating via Zoom, Skype, and on their own. While campuses may be shuttered, the Wildcat Way binds us together as one community and #OneJWU, whether we are together or apart.

“Your Wildcat spirit will serve you well in the months ahead.”

JWU Providence Campus President Marie Bernardo-Sousa, LP.D. '92, acknowledged the fact that the academic year did not exactly end in a typical way: “We know these past months have not been what you hoped for and expected as you concluded your studies at Johnson & Wales. We are so proud at how you stood up to the challenges presented with courage and perseverance. Your Wildcat spirit will serve you well in the months ahead.”

“Today marks a momentous occasion,” noted JWU North Miami Campus President Larry Rice, Ed.D, '90. “Your years as a college student have taught you independence, leadership, tenacity … and so much more. Before you being the next chapter of your journey, take some time to reflect these past years — the ups and the downs, the lifelong friendships that you formed, the professors that opened your mind to new ideas, … and the life lessons learned in and out of the classroom. Not that your role is changing from student to alumni, I’m hoping that you remember JWU’s North Miami Campus with pride as you continue to reach your dreams.”

“Your year was cut short, but your dreams were not. Stay true to yourself.”

Denver Campus President Richard Wiscott echoed the sentiments of the entire community when he said, “May we all be reunited soon as one JWU! Congratulations, Wildcats.”

Virtually, Bernardo-Sousa conferred degrees to the new graduates: “May 23 has been a day you have been looking forward to for so long — us too! We come together today — virtually — to recognize and honor your hard work and achievements. By the authority vested in me by the board of trustees of the university, under the laws governing higher education in Rhode Island, I confer upon you your earned degree from Johnson & Wales University. Congratulations Wildcats!”

Bernardo-Sousa concluded on a hopeful note — that a formal in-person gathering will be possible at some point in the future: “Let’s do this again in our caps and gowns with ‘Pomp and Circumstance’ playing as you receive your diploma on stage.”

Faculty from all campuses sent in their heartfelt congratulations and advice for their graduating seniors:


Associate Instructor Rizwan Ahmed: “We applaud you, we honor you, we stand with you in these uncertain times. Your year was cut short, but your dreams were not. Stay true to yourself, and take pride in all that you have accomplished. We are one JWU.”

Associate Professor Russ Zito: “I’d also like to send out a special word of gratitude to those graduates who have served. Thank you for your service. And to all of you, congratulations! You’ve earned it. You’re part of something much greater now. So get out there, and make this world a better place.”

Associate Professor Sarah Jablon-Roberts, Ph.D.: I started in 2016 too, so I feel like I’m Class of 2020, which is just ONE of the reasons I’m sad we’re not celebrating together! But it doesn’t take anything away from your accomplishments!

Professor Christine Stamm: “Put your all into things you can control, and try to take in stride those things you can’t. I know the last 3 months have been a tremendous strain on you, but you have persevered. You have earned your degree. You have done what you came here to do, and now it’s time to go out and conquer the world!”


Dean of Students Ismare Monreal: “Remember, Wildcats always stick together. So regardless of where your future takes you, we will be right here to support you all along your journey.”

SGA President Najai Martinez '20: “Class of 2020, you are innovators, artists, entrepreneurs and trailblazers. As we close out the year, I want you to keep your JWU memories forever in your heart. Please take chances, and never give up on your dreams, aspirations and goals.”


JWU Denver created a video with contributions from most of their faculty, done in a collage style. Watch it below.


Associate Professor Alana Dagenhart: “The class of 2020 embodies the spirit of the Wildcat – they are savvy and scrappy. They are fierce. And they are going to be just fine.”

Assistant Professor Darin Spencer, Ph.D.: “JWU has given you wings. Soar! Be bold, be humble, be kind. Dare to believe in yourself as we do.”

Associate Professor Catherine Rabb: “With their characteristic good humor, grit, grace and support for each other they have embraced the JWU can-do attitude, kept their chins up and their spirits high. I am beyond proud of each and every student in this graduating class, and know they will continue to make us proud as they move into their very bright future.”