With pomp and pageantry befitting a Red Sox World Series celebration, Bentley University on Saturday became the first Boston-area college to hold commencement exercises this year at Fenway Park.
The “double header” ceremony celebrated the class of 2021 and 2020, whose ceremony last year was forced to be held online due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
A year later, with vaccinations on the rise and health restrictions easing in Massachusetts, some colleges and 16 Boston public high schools have opted to hold graduations at Fenway, but with strict protocols and limited attendance.
Under warm sunny skies, Bentley honored a total of about 2,000 undergraduates and 1,000 graduate students during ceremonies held in the morning and afternoon, according to the Waltham-based university.
The park was decked out for the celebrations, with the Jumbotron displaying professors congratulating the students and the scoreboard reading out, “CONGRATS BENTLEY.”
Former Bentley president Gloria Larson spoke at both celebrations, saying the “past year has forever changed our world.”
“We are lesser as a nation and lesser as a global community,” Larson told the class of 2021. “We’ve experienced an untold loss of human life, felt economic and financial hardship, experienced social unrest and a needed reckoning around race and social justice, and saw a deepening political and social divide at home and abroad.”
“But here today, in spite of or perhaps because of these challenges, we stand stronger,” she said. “Class of 2021, you are stronger.”
Graduates were also celebrated on the university’s Twitter account, with families and friends writing personalized messages for the graduating Falcons.
Next up for commencement at Fenway is Emerson College, which will hold dual celebrations for the Class of 2021 and the Class of 2020 on Sunday. Northeastern University will hold graduation for the Class of 2021 next Saturday at the ballpark.
On May 22 and 23, Suffolk University will hold ceremonies there for the classes of 2021 and 2020. In June, 16 Boston public high schools will hold graduation exercises at the storied ballpark throughout the month.