Commencement Details—April 13, 2021

To our graduating seniors and their families,

On Saturday, May 29, 2021, Bowdoin will celebrate our 216th Commencement. This year, it is both a great and historic occasion for our students—and for all of us—and we warmly invite you to take part in our Commencement events, even as they must be scaled down and partially virtual as a result of the continuing pandemic.

Attendance, Testing Requirements, and Seating

The ceremony will be held on the main quad in front of the Walker Art Building, weather permitting. It will be open to all graduating seniors (including students who are studying remotely), their two ticketed guests, and faculty and staff who are in our COVID-19 testing protocol. We will stream the proceedings live for those who cannot travel to Brunswick, for members of the Bowdoin community who are not in the testing program, and for family members unable to attend due to limited seating. Should extreme weather force the proceedings indoors, attendance will be limited to graduating seniors only, with others watching the ceremony online.

Instructions will be provided soon on how each graduating student can obtain two guest tickets. These tickets allow us to control the capacity of the event. Students who don’t wish to use their tickets will be able to turn them back in or give them to another graduating senior.

Participating students will be tested for COVID-19 on Thursday, May 27, and on Friday, May 28 (see testing location and hours below). Faculty and staff who are planning to participate in Commencement will be tested on Friday, May 28. Anyone who tests positive will be required to isolate and watch the ceremony virtually. We will also use contact tracing to determine if others will be required to quarantine.

Students, faculty, and staff will be seated separately from guests at the ceremony itself. Each pair of guests will be seated together but appropriately spaced from other guests on the Quad. Large video monitors will be positioned at the event to ensure that those seated farther away will still have a good view of the proceedings.

The Ceremony

A designated seating area for guests with tickets will open on the Quad at 8:00 a.m., and we ask that family members limit their movements once they are seated. The event will begin at approximately 9:30 a.m. with a processional, followed at 10:00 a.m. by the Commencement Exercises on the steps of the Walker Art Building. In addition to brief remarks from President Rose, the program will include student speeches from our three Commencement prize winners, the awarding of honorary degrees, and the presentation of our graduates (as previously announced, diplomas will be mailed to each graduate in the days following the ceremony). A take-away box lunch will be provided to graduates, their guests, and faculty and staff following the ceremony.

Residence halls will close at 6:00 p.m. on the day of Commencement. Students should plan accordingly and be prepared to move their belongings out of their rooms that afternoon.

COVID-19 Testing

All students, faculty, and staff who are planning to participate in Commencement activities, including in-person events on Thursday and Friday and the exercises on Saturday, will be required to test for COVID-19. These tests will be provided by the College at no cost in Farley Field House between the hours of 11:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. on both Thursday, May 27, and Friday, May 28.

Students arriving from off campus must be tested before accessing other parts of the campus or any other College facilities.

Anyone who tests positive will be required to isolate, and the College will also conduct contract tracing to determine if others need to quarantine. Unfortunately, these individuals will not be permitted to attend Commencement activities in person.

Class Dinners and Virtual Open Houses

In consultation with the senior class council, we are still working out some of the details for the days leading up to Commencement. While we will not be able to hold our traditional Baccalaureate ceremony the day before Commencement, we are making plans for outdoor dinners on both Thursday and Friday nights for graduating students only. Those wishing to attend the dinners will be required to test negative for COVID-19 on Thursday and again on Friday using rapid antigen tests administered by the College. For the continued protection of our campus and local communities, we ask that our graduating students observe proper health and safety protocols in the days following final exams through Saturday, May 29.

We are also planning to hold virtual academic department open houses. Additional details about these events will be provided as they are scheduled.

Honorary Degree Recipients and Programming

In addition to recognizing our honorary degree recipients at Commencement, members of the Bowdoin community, including parents and alumni, will have the opportunity on successive Wednesdays in May to participate in virtual events with three of our four extraordinary honorands: Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases; DeRay Mckesson ’07, leading voice in the Black Lives Matter movement and cofounder of Campaign Zero; and Jessica Meir, NASA astronaut and marine biologist and physiologist. A fourth honorary degree will be awarded posthumously to William Harbour, civil rights activist who participated in the Freedom Rides.

Virtual events with Dr. Fauci, Mr. Mckesson, and Dr. Meir will be held on May 12, May 19, and May 26, respectively. You will soon receive more detail in a separate email about how to participate in these events.


Commencement at Bowdoin is a ceremony and a tradition that brings us together to celebrate the accomplishments of our graduates and to wish them well in their future endeavors. This year, we must make necessary adjustments to comply with COVID-19 health and safety protocols. Still, we look forward to sharing this celebration with you. You will receive additional details from us in the days to come, and you can refer to our Commencement website for general information.

The part of this year’s Commencement that is in no way pared back is the pride that President Rose, our faculty, and the entire Bowdoin community feels for our graduating class. These students are to be commended and celebrated for their achievements, their perseverance, and their resilience, and all of us look forward to doing that together with you in May.


Tony Sprague
Executive Director of Events and Summer Programs