Grove City College presented a record number of diplomas Saturday when it held Commencement exercises for both the Class of 2021 and the Class of 2020, who saw their graduation day delayed a year by the pandemic.
On Saturday morning, 558 seniors walked across the stage set up on the College’s Quad to receive their diplomas from President Paul J. McNulty ’80 and other administrators. The newly-minted alumni post an impressive academic record, with 47% of the Class of 2021 earning cum laude, magna cum laude or summa cum laude honors.
In the afternoon, 260 members of the Class of 2020 strode across the same stage and repeated the ritual that has marked commencement at Grove City College for more than 140 years.
Author and Fox News host Dana Perino, who served as White House Press Secretary during the George W. Bush administration, addressed both classes. A scheduling conflict forced her to deliver her remarks remotely, via pre-recorded video.
“Although I may be coming to you from my studio at Fox News. This isn’t just another day of work for me. I’m here just for you. For your eyes only. In the TV business, we call this an exclusive,” she said.
Perino said the College delivers “an education rooted not just in facts and figures but in principled leadership and faith and freedom” as she talked about resilience and reassurance in the face of the inevitable, the beauty of salvation and the “gift” of serenity. “Everything will be OK,” she repeated throughout her remarks.
“History found you,” she told the graduates. “There is no way around a pandemic, and you were stronger, gutsier and more capable than you realized. You not only survived. You thrived. Remember that the next time you face challenges. Whatever tools and lessons you learned during the pandemic will always be available to you. You’ve learned to manage in a crisis. You are more resilient for having gone through it,” Perino said.
“Our lives are not determined by what happens to us, but how we react to what happens to us. The class of 2021 won’t be defined by what you lost to the virus, but how you responded to it,” she said.
These challenging moments, she said, help us climb to a higher level and see truth. “God has a plan for your life that is much bigger than your own. If you are going to walk in faith, you have to learn to trust when you don’t understand. It’s not about being confident in yourself. It’s about being confident in what God can do through you.”
She told students they were at a unique point in their lives where, “with a few good choices,” they can become “the person God created you to be.”
“There has never been a better time to be a young educated person living in America. Being born in the United States means you have already won the lottery of life. You have hit the jackpot ... This is something I like to call perspective with a capital P,” Perino said. “It reminds me to live with gratitude and not with negativity. Life is all about outlook, choosing to be happy to be peaceful and be loved. That really is up to you. You are in the driver’s seat. You get to decide where to go.”
Perino is a New York Times best-selling author and a leading personality at Fox News, where she co-anchors “America’s Newsroom” and co-hosts “The Five.” She was the first Republican woman to serve as White House press secretary.
Before Perino spoke, Rev. Donald D. Opitz, chaplain and senior director of Christian Formation, welcomed visitors to commencement. “Are you ready to celebrate?” he asked and the audience on the Quad responded loudly in the affirmative.
“Graduates, congratulations on milestone achievement, the result of remarkable talent and determination in a very unusual year. Most of all it is a result of God’s great loving kindness,” College President Paul J. McNulty ’80 said. “It has been a joy and privilege to learn and live with you for these past four years. It has been to say the least a memorable journey together. Especially the last year and a half of it … It has undoubtably made our time together more precious.”
The Class of 2021’s journey was interrupted by remote learning last spring and restored in the fall when the College reopened for in-person instruction. They completed their studies this under Covid guidelines that required masking, social distancing, regular testing and sometimes quarantine. McNulty noted the darker days of last spring, when the world was locked down under deadly threat, and the “emerging restoration of life after covid” ahead.
“Life’s hardships and disappointments are unavoidable. But how you respond to these circumstances will shape your life,” McNulty said.
Edward D. Breen ’78, chair of the Board of Trustees, commended the class on their resilience, perseverance and determination and told them the value of the soft skills and the strong moral foundation developed at Grove City College is unmeasurable. “Your Grove City College degree will hold lasting value in your lives,” he said.
The College awarded the Class of 2021: 147 Bachelor of Arts degrees; 326 Bachelor of Science degrees; 55 Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering degrees; 16 Bachelor of Electrical Engineering degrees; and 14 Bachelor of Music degrees.
The 2021 Commencement was the first large gathering on campus since the pandemic began last year. To maintain social distance, seating for graduates, faculty and their guests was spread out across the entire Quad and current CDC guidelines were in force.
For some members of the Class of 2020, it was their first time back on campus since the pandemic turned the last semester of their senior year into an exercise in remote education. The College honored them virtually last May and vowed to hold a ceremony that would allow the class to celebrate their achievement in-person, in the campus community that they were part of for four years.
“We are so thrilled to be able to welcome our 2020 alumni back home for this long-awaited ceremony,” Melissa (Trifaro ’96) MacLeod, senior director of Alumni and College Relations, said.