Thousands of Princeton students and their families gathered in the Princeton Stadium to celebrate the 275th Commencement ceremony for the University Class of 2022 on Tuesday, May 24. The event marked the first mask-optional and unrestricted capacity graduation since the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted campus life more than two years ago.
According to the University, the Class of 2022 was awarded 1,234 undergraduate degrees and 655 graduate degrees. The graduates represent 49 U.S. states and more than 60 countries. Approximately 18 percent of the class are first-generation college students.
Speakers at the event included valedictorian Natalia Orlovsky ’22 and salutatorian Frances Magina ’22, as well as several University administrators. President Christopher L. Eisgruber ’83 also delivered a speech on “the value of persistence,” in which he reflected on how far students had come amid the tumultuous academic and personal experiences of the pandemic.
The ceremony began with a procession of all graduating students at 9:45 a.m., which was followed by a moment of prayer by the Dean of Religious Life Rev. Alison L. Boden. Following a moment of reflection, Eisgruber delivered the opening greeting, acknowledging the hard work of the graduates and the work of the Facilities department in preparing the stadium for the ceremony.
Magina, a philosophy concentrator from Toronto, Canada, delivered the Latin Salutatory Oration in Latin, reflecting both on her personal experiences during her time spent at the University and the adventures that lie ahead.
“Today, however, we can delight in Princeton’s lovely spring. Now it is fitting to crown our scholarly heads with green ivy or with orange flowers. Now it is fitting to seize the day with our friends. Companions, let us therefore rejoice in sweet recollection, present joys, and the mystery of things to come,” Magina said in Latin.
The recipients of the Secondary School Teaching Prizes were announced by Provost Deborah A. Prentice, and included Deborah Cella of the Glen Rock High School, Alicia Rodriguez of the Kent Place School, Devin Ryan-Pullen of the Burlington City High School, and Leetwaun Snowden of the University High School.
Eisgruber delivered remarks on the virtues of perseverance and grit, addressing the unique struggles the Class of 2022 has faced due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Earning a Princeton degree is an exceptional achievement in any year, but you have overcome challenges that none of us could have imagined when you began your studies here,” Eisgruber said.
He went on to acknowledge the difficulties specifically borne by first-generation, low-income, and minority students at elite institutions and the burden of student loans for those who fail to complete their degrees.
“At college Commencements around the country, there are missing chairs and missing students this year, and there will likely be more missing chairs in the years to come,” he said. “Some students left school during the pandemic and have not returned. Some high school students who might have gone to college have made other choices instead.”
“Though the data is incomplete, both problems appear to have a disproportionate effect on students from less advantaged backgrounds and those who attend community colleges and other public, two-year institutions,“ Eisgruber continued.
In her speech, Dean of the College Jill Dolan playfully quipped that she was not here to “deliver another email of doom,” and instead addressed the Class of 2022 by praising them for their hard-earned successes.
“My colleagues and I are very proud of who you are and what you have accomplished,” she said. “Each and every one of you has left your imprint on this University.”
Orlovsky, the valedictorian and molecular biology concentrator from Chadds Ford, Penn., addressed her fellow classmates by wishing for “hope, even — and, perhaps, especially — in the face of uncertainty.”
She went on to speak about life after graduation, encouraging peers to pursue their goals and make a difference, regardless of the obstacles they may face.
“The earth is warming, and the oceans rising,” she said. “At the same time, activists, journalists, and artists are bravely working to dismantle oppressive systems, while scientists and engineers combat public health crises and environmental challenges.”
“In other words, there is space for hope, for action, and for change,” Orlovsky said.
Honorary degrees were awarded to several prominent individuals at the ceremony, including attorney and former Arkansas legislator Fred David Gray (Doctor of Laws), U.S. Ambassador to Germany Amy Gutmann (Doctor of Laws), healthcare attorney and administrator Brent Henry ’69 (Doctor of Laws), professor of biology at Brandeis University Eve Marder (Doctor of Science), and FedEx founder and CEO Frederick W. Smith (Doctor of Humane Letters).
The ceremony concluded with a singing of “Old Nassau” as guests and attendees were invited to rise to their feet and join in singing the tune prior to the celebratory recession of students from Powers Field.
Bailey Glenetske is an Assistant News Editor and Geosciences concentrator who often covers University affairs and STEM news. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Instagram @bailey.glenetske.