With celebrity alums’ greetings, honors for groundbreaking Terps and hundreds of photos shared by new graduates, today’s virtual commencement ceremony for the University of Maryland’s Class of 2020 recognized accomplishments and bonds that will long outlast the coronavirus crisis.

Moved online due to the unprecedented challenges of the pandemic, the program celebrated the more than 8,500 students receiving bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees, who were asked by speakers to hold up their education as a roadmap in uncertain times.

“To be a Terp is to be fearless. We always go forward, one step at a time,” said UMD President Wallace D. Loh, in his final commencement remarks before retiring next month. “We have grit. We have moxie, and we have passion and perseverance.”

U.S. Rep. Steny H. Hoyer ’63, majority leader of the U.S. House of Representatives and congressman for Maryland’s 5th District, told graduates in the main commencement address that the current environment lives up to the famous Thomas Paine quote on “times that try men’s souls.”Lindsey Collins and dog high-five

“You will be better prepared to navigate these challenging times because of the test you faced here at Maryland,” Hoyer said. “Your actions and contributions will result not in our fellow citizens fearing the turtle, but rather revering the turtle.”

Honorary doctorates of public service were bestowed upon Hiram T. Whittle, who in 1951 became the first African American to enroll in an undergraduate program at UMD, and Elaine Johnson Coates ’59, the first black woman to earn a bachelor’s degree at UMD.

Additional remarks were made by Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and University System of Maryland Regent Gary Attman ’76.

 “Always expect the unexpected and don’t get thrown off course when obstacles appear from nowhere,” Hogan said. “Together, we are going to defeat this deadly virus and because of your talent … I am incredibly optimistic that the state of Maryland will soon return stronger and better than ever.”

The more than 30,000 graduates and families who tuned into the live program, streamed on commencement.umd.edu, YouTube and Facebook, were also treated to surprise appearances by notable alums: Under Armour founder Kevin Plank ’96, ESPN “SportsCenter” host Scott Van Pelt ’88, TV host Maury Povich and wife and TV broadcast journalist Connie Chung ’69, and pro wrestler Mojo Rawley ’08, MBA ’11, who gave the sendoff message with his trademark high energy.

Student speaker Citrupa Gopal ’20, a biological sciences major who came to College Park from India to pursue her interest in research, encouraged her classmates to not shy away from meeting “the challenge of our generation.”

“Fear is a challenge but any challenge can be overcome,” she said. “If there ever was a time to be fearless, this is it.”

As part of the shift to a virtual ceremony, all graduating students were sent a care package, including a turtle pin, posters, commencement program and, for undergraduates, a cap and tassel. All graduates were encouraged to use these items and more to share their UMD memories with the #UMDgrad hashtag. Students and families posted 3,500 photos and videos on social media using #UMDgrad, with many of these memories shared during the ceremony.

Individual colleges and schools developed their own videos, which are available here.

In addition to this week’s events, graduates will receive complimentary tickets to the Sept. 12 home football game, at which they’ll be recognized; they’re also invited to participate in the Winter Commencement ceremony, which will be held on Sunday, Dec. 20 to make it possible for more Spring graduates and families to attend.