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‘We Really Are Terrapin Strong’

Amid Fireworks and Outdoor Fanfare, Graduates Heralded for Showing Perseverance in Challenging Times

By Liam Farrell

Fireworks at Maryland Stadium during commencement

Photo by Stephanie S. Cordle

A surprise fireworks display over Maryland Stadium capped Friday’s commencement ceremonies celebrating the classes of 2021 and 2020.

Basking in warm sunshine and an atmosphere of optimism, the Terp community came together today at Maryland Stadium to honor the Class of 2021’s achievements in the face of COVID-19’s unprecedented challenges.

“We really are Terrapin Strong,” University of Maryland President Darryll J. Pines told the crowd at the 11 a.m. commencement ceremony. “Seeing your faces in person is a sign. It’s a sign that we are beginning to win this fight against this virus. It’s a sign that your collective resilience and strength and grit is stronger than any challenge you will face.”

The 8,500 members of the Spring 2021 graduating class are being honored today with two in-person, outdoor ceremonies at the stadium, divided by school and college—the first open-air graduations in 66 years. Graduates could bring two guests, sat in distanced “households” of three for safety reasons and were sent off with an appearance from Testudo and a fireworks display. Spring 2020 and Winter 2020 graduates, who had only virtual ceremonies due to the pandemic, were invited to attend as well.

“We were reminded that each day is precious and many of us vow to never again take for granted the everyday parts of life,” Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said in a recorded message. “I hope that as you graduate today, you remember that each of us can make the days ahead count that much more.”

Hannah Rhee ’21, the student speaker and computer science major, said the pandemic and recent social justice challenges facing the entire nation are reminders that asking for help and relying on friends and family are proof of strength, not weakness.

“Through these relationships I learned about the world, made lasting friendships and developed my character,” she said. “I believe we are emerging as fearless Terps, more thoughtful and more kind because of our experiences.”

The main, recorded address was delivered by Peter Chapman, president and CEO of IonQ, a leading quantum computing company spun off from UMD research and headquartered in the nearby Discovery District. The son of a NASA scientist-astronaut and formerly director of engineering for Amazon Prime, Chapman urged graduates to meet the future with optimism and look to the promise of technology in answering challenges ranging from disease to climate change.

“I know that for some of you, this day is bittersweet,” he said. “But for all that you’ve lost, for all that we have all lost, you’ve gained a lot, too: memories and friendships, new strengths and new skills. And today, a degree from the University of Maryland.”

Students sit spaced apart at commencementUnder a cloudless sky and cooled by a light spring breeze, graduates and their families sat in Maryland Stadium to celebrate the first outdoor commencement in 66 years.
Photo by Stephanie S. Cordle


Three grads in their seatsMore than 8,500 students were granted degrees at the Spring 2021 ceremonies at Maryland Stadium. Graduates from Spring and Winter 2020 were also invited to celebrate in-person after having virtual ceremonies due to COVID-19.
Photo by Stephanie S. Cordle


President Pines speaks at the podiumUMD President Darryll J. Pines praised graduates for their resiliency over the past year as the COVID-19 pandemic necessitated changes inside and out of the classroom.
Photo by John T. Consoli


Peter Chapman on screenPeter Chapman, president and CEO of quantum computing company IonQ, delivered the main commencement address via recording. He urged graduates to be optimistic about the future and the promise that technology holds for issues ranging from disease to climate change.
Photo by John T. Consoli


Kyeisha Laurence, a finalist for university medalist, at commencementKyeisha Laurence was a finalist for university medalist, the highest honor given to an undergraduate by UMD. The biological sciences major, who minored in French studies, earned a 3.97 GPA. She plans to spend a year conducting clinical research at the National Institutes of Health, then pursue M.D. and M.P.H. degrees for a career in improving health care for low-income and underrepresented minority communities.
Photo by Stephanie S. Cordle


Hannah Rhee speaks on screenStudent speaker Hannah Rhee, a computer science major, emphasized the importance of relationships to support students studying through the twin pandemics of COVID-19 and social unrest brought on by racism and inequality.
Photo by Stephanie S. Cordle 

Maryland Today is produced by the Office of Strategic Communications for the University of Maryland community weekdays during the academic year, except for university holidays.