Frequently Asked Questions

Who was involved in the decision-making regarding the rescheduled commencement exercises for the Class of 2020?

President Dudley appointed a Commencements Task Force to make recommendations regarding virtual degree conferral events and rescheduled commencement exercises for the undergraduate and law classes of 2020. The task force is composed of a subset of the campus group that oversees W&L's traditional commencement ceremonies, including:

  • Chair: Jim Farrar, Secretary of the University and Senior Advisor to the President
  • Scott Dittman, University Registrar
  • Trenya Mason, Assistant Dean for Law Student Affairs
  • Barbara Mollica, Director of Special Events
  • Tammi Simpson, Associate Dean of Students and Dean of Seniors
  • Jessica Willett, Chief Communications Officer

Were students consulted on their preferences?

Yes. Student affairs representatives to the Task Force spoke extensively with dozens of student leaders representing both the undergraduate and law classes to assess their preferences and gain input on the various ideas and scenarios for both the virtual and in-person events. 

What factors were considered?

Lexington and the surrounding area is home to three colleges and is a popular destination for both tourists and weddings. Officials from W&L, VMI, the Virginia Horse Center, and the Chamber of Commerce meet twice a year to map out events that will draw large numbers of visitors to the area years in advance.

For the rescheduled in-person celebrations, the Task Force considered calendar conflicts — both at W&L and in the greater Lexington community — and the availability of hotel rooms in Lexington while attempting to identify dates that met the student focus groups' stated criteria, which included:

  • Hold the events as soon as possible, and prior to the commencement dates for the undergraduate and law classes of 2021;
  • Hold the events on a weekend to facilitate travel for graduates and their families;
  • Hold the events outside, and not during the winter months.

When W&L determined that we would be unable to hold in-person commencements this spring as planned, all of the fall 2020 weekends were booked with other major events. Hotel rooms were only available on weekdays. The weekends of April 3-4 and May 22-23 were the only spring weekends without major events already on the calendar and that offered widespread availability of hotel rooms.

Why not host the ceremonies this fall?

Our students stated a clear preference for a weekend event, and local hotel rooms have extremely limited availability on weekend dates in Fall 2020 due to previously scheduled (and rescheduled) events. In addition, the evolving guidance from state and national health and government authorities regarding the global pandemic made planning fall events that draw people from across the country and around the world inadvisable. The task force hopes that, by planning these events for Spring 2021, we can avoid having to reschedule them yet again.

I've heard that there are no hotel rooms available on May 22-23. Did you check with hotels?

Yes. Members of the task force coordinated with the Lexington Chamber of Commerce and worked directly with the major hotels in the area to ensure that there was adequate availability. Many hotels have not yet opened their reservation systems for booking in 2021. Those dates are available on the Lodging section of this website.

Why hold the undergraduate ceremony on Sunday instead of Saturday?

The task force first considered Saturday, May 22. However, W&L's Board of Trustees meets on campus on Friday and Saturday and undergraduate Spring Term exams take place on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. A number of the faculty and staff who are involved in ensuring that exams and Board meetings run smoothly also play significant roles in commencement ceremonies, and the task force felt it was important to give the Class of 2020's ceremony the attention to detail that characterizes every W&L commencement. Holding the ceremony on Sunday morning also allows graduates a full day to return to Lexington and reconnect with classmates, and offers departments and programs an opportunity to host open houses, award ceremonies and receptions for the Class of 2020 prior to the ceremony.

What other events are planned for the weekend?

In addition to any receptions, open houses, and award ceremonies hosted for the Class of 2020 by academic departments and student affinity groups, the Office of Alumni Engagement will host a barbeque featuring dinner and fireworks for graduates on Saturday evening. There will be a luncheon for graduates and their families on Sunday afternoon, following the commencement ceremony, on Cannan Green.