Yale Commencement 2021: May 21 to 24

From May 21–24, Yale will celebrate Commencement 2021 in a series of ceremonies that recognize the achievements of over 3,500 graduates across the university.
Yale banners over Phelps Gate.

(Photos by Dan Renzetti)

Yale will celebrate Commencement 2021 from May 21 to 24 in a series of ceremonies recognizing the achievements of more than 3,500 graduates across the university.

Spread across four days, the events — some in person, some online only — will incorporate many longtime customs familiar to generations of Yalies while accounting for the exceptional circumstances of the past year and adhering to public health guidelines. The rigorous choreography allowing schools and residential colleges to gather graduates in person involves necessary limits on duration and group size, as well as social distancing requirements.

For Yale College graduates, an Old Campus ceremony on Saturday, May 22, will draw on elements of four traditional events: the undergraduate Baccalaureate service and diploma ceremonies, Yale College Class Day, and university Commencement exercises. Designed with input from the Class of 2021, the ceremony will give all graduates the opportunity to walk across the stage as their names are read aloud. (Graduates will attend one of three assigned ceremonies, based on their residential college affiliation.) The full Class Day ceremony will take place May 23 through virtual programming on the Yale 2021 website, with Robert Lopez ’97, the Emmy-, Grammy-, Oscar-, and Tony-award-winning songwriter, as the featured speaker.

All in-person ceremonies will be for graduates only; in deference to the public health, no guests are permitted to attend. Families and friends are invited to watch livestream videos and additional programming available on the Yale 2021 site, which will launch May 20 with a full schedule of events.

Events for the schools of drama and music will be entirely virtual, including the School of Music’s annual Commencement Concert on May 23. It will present performances recorded throughout the year.

Each of these events celebrate the accomplishments of our graduating students and 

recognize the unique experience of the Class of 2021, while connecting them to the 319 classes that came before,” said Kimberly Goff-Crews, secretary and vice president for university life at Yale.

Read below for the full schedule, more information about how to be involved virtually, and health and safety guidelines. Detailed information about specific ceremonies can be found at the Yale 2021 website or directly from the relevant school or its website.

A maintenance worker prepares Old Campus for the festivities.
A maintenance worker prepares Old Campus for the festivities.

Live streaming, social media, and news

Families and friends are invited to participate in the graduation ceremonies and celebrations virtually:

  • By visiting the Yale 2021 website, which provides access to live and recorded videos, articles, photographs, and a list of graduates.
  • By using #Yale2021 across social media to find and share information and photos of graduation weekend; publicly posted photos tagged with #Yale2021 may be selected for Yale’s official Instagram Stories and/or featured on the Yale 2021 website.
  • By following Yale News, which will feature stories and photo slideshows from a variety of graduation events, updated throughout the weekend and beyond.

Schedule of events

Friday, May 21

10:00 a.m.: Yale School of Nursing graduation ceremony on West Campus

11:00 a.m. and 12:15 p.m.: Yale School of Architecture ceremonies, Yale Art Gallery Sculpture Garden

Saturday, May 22

Yale College graduation ceremonies on Old Campus, livestreamed on the Yale 2021 website:

10:00 a.m.: Grace Hopper, Jonathan Edwards, Trumbull, Silliman, Ezra Stiles

1:00 p.m.: Berkeley, Davenport, Benjamin Franklin, Pauli Murray

4:00 p.m.:  Branford, Morse, Pierson, Saybrook, Timothy Dwight

Each Yale College program will include brief remarks from President Peter Salovey recognizing the achievements of the Class of 2021, speakers from the senior class, and a congratulatory send-off from Dean of Yale College Marvin Chun. Following the ceremony, “Bright College Years” will ring out from the Harkness Bells as the new graduates make their way back to their colleges — one of the many ways in which traditional music, live and recorded, will be incorporated into the weekend’s programming. 

Sunday, May 23

10:00 a.m.: Graduate School of Arts and Sciences graduation ceremonies, Old Campus

2:30 p.m.: Yale College Class Day, featuring Robert Lopez ’97 and student speakers Alec Zbornak ’21 (Serious Reflection), Teava Torres de Sa ’21 and Matt Nadel ’21 (Comic Reflection), and Vy Tran ’21 (Ivy Ode). Each graduate will receive a Class Day 2021 hat and a gift bag containing the Class Anthology (a collection of writing, artwork, and quotations from the graduation class), a packet of ivy seeds (symbolizing the class ivy that will be planted on Old Campus), the traditional Churchwarden Pipe, and white Yale handkerchief. Just prior to the premiere of the virtual Class Day program, the carillon bells of Harkness Tower will ring with an original composition by Lopez, the Class Day speaker, entitled “The Beacon.”

Monday, May 24

10:00 a.m. to 4 p.m.: Graduation ceremonies for the professional schools. Find information on specific ceremonies directly from the relevant school or its website, and via the Yale 2021 website.

11:00 a.m.: University exercises will be presented on the Yale 2021 site. Videos will include a blessing by University Chaplain Sharon Kugler, President Salovey’s recorded remarks to the graduates, a celebration of this year’s honorary degree recipients, and the official conferral of students’ degrees. All degree recipients will also be listed on the site that day.

President Salovey records his address to graduates.
President Salovey records his address to graduates.

Health and safety guidelines

Visitors, including members of the news media, will not be allowed on campus during the events, regardless of their vaccination status. As detailed on the Yale Commencement site, students who have been studying remotely or who were not in residence for the spring semester and who are returning to campus for graduation ceremonies are asked to complete a registration form. All graduates must complete required COVID-19 testing prior to taking part in commencement activities. In accordance with Yale’s health and safety guidelines, masks and physical distancing will be required at all university events.

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Part of the In Focus Collection: Celebrating the Yale Class of 2021

Media Contact

Karen N. Peart: karen.peart@yale.edu, 203-980-2222