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Commencement 2020 recap

The U honors 8,628 graduates during first-ever virtual commencement ceremony.

Despite having to forgo a traditional spring commencement gathering due to the COVID-19 pandemic, nearly 3,000 joined the first-ever virtual commencement broadcast on April 30, 2020. Pre-recorded speeches and congratulatory messages were compiled to create the 75-minute virtual ceremony.

The University of Utah’s 151st general commencement honored 8,628 graduating students.


  • Miranda Stewart, who graduated with bachelor’s degrees in sociology and international studies, was chosen as the student speaker. Watch here and read the transcript of her speech below.
  • John Warnock, co-founder, Adobe Inc. gave the keynote speech. Watch it here and read the transcript of his commencement address below.
  • Honorary degree recipient Kristen Ries was honored during the ceremony. Watch the video and read the transcript here.
  • Academic Deans each shared congratulatory messages for their students. Watch the unique shoutouts and read the transcript here.

2020 Commencement student speaker: Miranda Stewart

Miranda Stewart, student speaker delivering her speech in cap and gown

Good evening, President Watkins, distinguished guests, Mr. John Warnock, faculty and fellow students of the Class of 2020.

I would, first and foremost, like to offer you a resounding congratulations. Milestones of great magnitude are always worth celebrating regardless of circumstance. But they’re also sobering, and even more so now. What this moment means for each of us moving forward cannot be overstated. As such, I’ve determined that this is the best time to have a little talk with you about hermit crabs.

Now I had a small hermit crab army as a kid. One of the coolest things about them to me was the fact that, throughout their lives, they’re constantly changing their shells. The shell-changing process sounds simple. A hermit crab grows until it begins to feel tight and uncomfortable, and then it leaves that shell to find a new one that fits better.

The problem is that being without a shell is described by scientists as being stressful for the crabs. And it is as worrying as it is dangerous. Those shells are not only their places of comfort but also their protection—their shield from the precariousness of the world. Until a crab finds a new shell that can accommodate its growth, it is vulnerable.

Read Stewart’s full speech here.

2020 Commencement keynote speaker: John Warnock

John Warnock, keynote speaker, delivers his speech.Congratulations to the new graduates.

It is an honor today to speak to you even though it is under such unfortunate circumstances. I’m a native Utahn. I grew up in Utah and received my formal education from the University of Utah, and I’m proud to have had a connection with the university for many years.

I would like to take a moment to relate a story about my early education. When I entered high school, my future did not look promising. After taking an aptitude test in the 10th grade, a counselor, following up on the results of the test, asked what I intended to do in the future. After telling him I would like to go to college and maybe study engineering, he informed me that I had no aptitude for anything technical and that I should look to do something else. I think he suggested that I should become a cheese wrapper since the aptitude test indicated I worked well with my hands.

Read Warnock’s full speech here.