harkins hall exterior

Providence College to hold in-person graduation without parents or guests

Providence College has announced that the Class of 2021 will have an in-person graduation but no parents or guests will be in attendance. Instead, the ceremony will be livestreamed.

PC President Rev. Kenneth R. Sicard, O.P made the announcement Friday morning.

Undergraduate commencement exercises will be live and in-person, right here on campus, on Thursday, May 20, at 11 a.m.

Some details are left to be worked out, and they will depend largely on what the state will allow by that time, but we are planning for an outdoor ceremony. God willing, we will be able to have the entire class in one venue to share in this celebration together. We have multiple contingency plans in place, in the event that we have to use one or more settings to comply with distancing requirements, or if we have to go inside because of inclement weather.

Unfortunately, it has become clear that the state’s COVID-19 regulations will not allow for a scenario that would include parents and/or guests. We will, of course, livestream the event so that families can see the graduates cross the stage as their names are announced.

I am delighted that we will be able to provide the Class of 2021 with an in-person commencement experience. Students told us, in a survey and anecdotally, that this is their top priority, and our staff has worked hard to make it a reality. While the setting will be different from what we have become used to, the ceremony will continue those traditions we hold most dear, including individual recognition for each student, a commencement speaker, and the presentation of honorary degrees. I have no doubt that this year’s ceremony will reflect in glorious ways the trademark Providence College resiliency and spirit that have been tested —but remain unbroken — after many months of challenges.

Incidentally, moving the date three days earlier than originally scheduled relates to our COVID-19 management protocols. Testing, with associated quarantine and isolation, will continue through commencement. The earlier date simply shortens the window during which students might test positive or be identified as close contacts, circumstances that would prevent them from being able to participate in the ceremony.

My pride in the Class of 2021 cannot be overstated. It is a group of remarkable Friars that will forever hold a special place in the College’s history and in our hearts. It will be an honor to preside over this ceremony on May 20.

A Commencement Mass for the graduating seniors is scheduled for the afternoon of Wednesday, May 19, the day after final exams conclude.

We will have a separate graduation ceremony, also livestreamed and without guests in attendance, on Friday, May 21, at 6 p.m. for graduate school and School of Continuing Education graduates.

There is one more detail that I can provide today, and that is the identity of our commencement speaker, Dr. Laurie Santos, a Yale University psychology professor who is the host of the acclaimed podcast The Happiness Lab. In that podcast, which derives from a course that has been described as the “most popular” one in Yale’s history, she applies scientific research to examining the factors that affect our happiness and well-being. Considering the challenges we have all faced, perhaps especially the members of the Class of 2021, her message will surely resonate and I look forward to hearing it.

More details, including the names of the other honorary degree recipients, will follow in the coming weeks.

I wish you all God’s most abundant blessings.


Rev. Kenneth R. Sicard, O.P.
College President

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