The graduates who lined up at Delaware Stadium on Friday morning settled on a career path for many different reasons, but for biology major Taylor Nolte, it was a personal one. She plans to pursue nursing so she can help people who experienced medical problems like she did.

“I had a spinal fusion for scoliosis in 2015,” Nolte explained. “I met a bunch of doctors and nurses and physician's assistants, and ever since then, I've wanted to get a medical career and be able to help other kids that might be going through the same thing that I went through back then.”

Nolte is one of 6,911 students graduating from UD this weekend. In order to limit capacity, UD split the graduates into a four groups, with two commencement ceremonies held Friday and two Saturday. A fifth will be held on Sunday for the Class of 2020, which wasn't able to have a ceremony last year due to the pandemic.

UD President Dennis Assanis praised the determination of students and how they were able to deal with unique hardships over the last year and a half.

“I know that you sacrificed to protect the health and safety of those around you, not only your friends and families, but everyone in our community,” Assanis said. “I am truly grateful for everything you did to support and care for one another.”

Torie Seagraves decorated her graduation cap with a Disney theme, with the little green aliens from Toy Story clamoring for “The Diploma.” Seagraves, a mass communications major with a minor in journalism, decorated her cap as a tribute to her niece.

“My niece Olivia is definitely my biggest cheerleader,” Seagraves said. “She motivates me to get through the tough times, and that doesn't end with college.”

Seagraves got to participate in hands-on work with internships and through broadcasting and other communication classes. Seagraves planned to work with the campus radio station, but that was canceled because of COVID-19.

Seagraves’ experience echos how many seniors had to adjust to their final year of college while still keeping up with academic work. 

“I wouldn't call it hard, just a big adjustment,” said criminal justice major Michael Judson. “Everything just changed all of a sudden.”

Bear native Madi Coleman lived her entire life in Delaware, and is now leaving the country to attend graduate school at the University of Glasgow for Museum Education in Scotland.

Coleman first fell in love with the idea of working in museums during the beginning of college, as the history major realized it was an important way to teach people about the past. Coleman said one of her fondest memories is looking through the university's historic costume collection as part of her historic fashion minor.

Sara Sowiak started her college career at Cecil College, and then transferred to UD to earn her bachelors degree.

“I'm excited to get into the next stage of my life,” she said moments before graduating.

President Joe Biden, a 1965 UD alumnus, recorded a speech to honor the 2021 graduates. Biden credited his professors at UD with instilling the confidence he needed to make sense of the world.

Biden said the United States is at an inflection point as the economy recovers from the pandemic and the country addresses climate change and systematic racism. 

“You're going to see more change in the next 10 years than you saw for the last 50 years,” Biden said. “But it's going to be up to you to translate that unprecedented change into a greater measure of happiness and prosperity for not only you and our nation but for the world around you.”

 He said that this current generation of graduates will be the ones to deal with the upcoming changes and create a better world.

"Graduates, you have a chance to make hope and history rhyme," Biden said, paraphrasing Irish poet Seamus Heaney.

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