Class Day 2020

Commencement tradition moves online with keynote address and senior award presentations

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Visit Emory's interactive Commencement website to view all Class Day videos, plus the full slate of events for each of the university's nine schools, culminating with the 175th Commencement on Monday, May 11, at 10 a.m.

You can also share messages and memories, find your name on the Grad Wall and watch events that have already concluded.

Although Emory University’s 2020 Commencement celebrations have been altered due to the pandemic scattering graduates worldwide, plans still include variations of many favorite traditions. One of these is Class Day, a longstanding student organized event for the baccalaureate degree candidates of Emory College of Arts and Sciences, Goizueta Business School, the Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing and the School of Medicine (Medical Imaging Program).

Traditionally, Class Day is held on the Thursday before Commencement and features a student-selected keynote speaker and presentation of several senior awards. 

Class Day 2020 was Thursday, May 7, and featured a special message from Comedy Central comedian and actor Ronny Chieng. During a recorded video address, he reminded students that navigating uncertainty – such as the current pandemic – is a skill set to be learned.

Ronny Chieng stands on stage with a microphone

Comedian and actor Ronny Chieng gave this year's Class Day address. A correspondent on "The Daily Show with Trevor Noah," Chieng stars in the Comedy Central series "Ronny Chieng: International Student" and acted in the film "Crazy Rich Asians."

Comedian and actor Ronny Chieng gave this year's Class Day address. A correspondent on "The Daily Show with Trevor Noah," Chieng stars in the Comedy Central series "Ronny Chieng: International Student" and acted in the film "Crazy Rich Asians."

“There’s a difference between knowing something intellectually and experiencing it,” Chieng said. “You have the opportunity to live through and overcome the challenges of a pandemic. That will hopefully help you have more appreciation and compassion for problems in society and make you determined to solve those problems.”

“Then when it’s your turn to make decisions you can help make sure this doesn’t happen again,” he added. “We need your skills more than ever.”

The following award recipients were announced during Class Day. Visit to watch videos of each award presentation, as well as the Class Day keynote.

Kira Tucker, recipient of the Lightkeeper of Emory award, on Emory's campus

Lightkeeper of Emory: Kira Tucker

The Lightkeeper of Emory recognizes a senior who works to make the world a better place without seeking attention or accolades for his or her actions. The award, established by the Order of Ammon, was first given in 2019.

Kira Tucker studied English, creative writing and linguistics. As a prospective author and educator, Tucker values literature as the ultimate liberal arts portal to everything imaginable.

She taught summer classes on comics, served as a teaching assistant for the IDS sidecar course Reading for Pleasure and worked as a tutor at the Emory Writing Center. She completed a senior capstone project in poetry, interweaving her passions for Russian and African American literature, and finished a creative writing honors thesis.

On Emory’s campus, Tucker worked to de-stigmatize mental illness by combining arts, mental health and social justice advocacy through her work with Emory Dark Arts. However, it is Tucker’s accomplishments outside her campus engagements that made the biggest impact. As an advocate, friend and kind and empathetic soul, Tucker’s presence at Emory shaped countless lives.

Michael A. Elliott, recipient of the Britt Katz Senior Appreciation Award

Brit Katz Senior Appreciation Award: Dean Michael A. Elliott

R. Britton Katz, role model, leader and director of residence life, was recognized at the first Class Day celebration in 2003 for his devotion to Emory’s students. The Brit Katz Award is presented in his honor to an administrator or staff member for his or her service as a role model and friend to the senior class, for participation in the Emory community beyond his or her professional duty, and who is deemed worthy of special recognition.

The 2020 recipient, Dean Michael A. Elliott of Emory College of Arts and Sciences, has been part of Emory for more than 20 years. He strives to connect with the student body and effectively uses his position to create a stronger Emory community that supports its students. Elliott is a special friend of the class of 2020, as he began his time as dean when most of the class began their academic journeys at Emory.

Boisfeuillet Jones Awards: Katelyn Boisvert, Catherine Jing Xu and Alexis Perkins

These medals were established, designed and initially endowed by D.V.S. Senior Society to honor Boisfeuillet Jones, a D.V.S. alumnus and one of Emory’s most prominent and distinguished graduates. Recipients are selected for their good citizenship, outstanding leadership, devoted service to Emory and the community, academic performance and potential to become a “change agent” in their chosen profession and society at large.

Katelyn Boisvert, Boisfeuillet Jones awardee for Emory College of Arts and Sciences, on the steps of an Emory building

Katelyn Boisvert

Emory College of Arts and Sciences graduate Katelyn Boisvert has stood out as a leader of the highest caliber, focusing her efforts on increasing attention and commitment to environmental sustainability. 

Majoring in environmental sciences and minoring in sustainability, Boisvert earned many accolades. She is a Woodruff Scholar, a member of Phi Beta Kappa and won the prestigious Udall Scholarship in 2019 for her leadership on environmental issues.

Boisvert’s contributions to Emory included interning at the Office of Sustainability Initiatives, giving tours of the Emory Water Hub and leading sustainability programs for the Residence Hall Association. She also served as an Orientation Leader, participated on Emory’s equestrian team and was president of Omicron Delta Kappa Honor Society, winning its national Leader of the Year award.

Catherine Jing Xu, Boisfeuillet Jones awardee for Goizueta Business School, outside the business school

Catherine Jing Xu

Catherine Jing Xu is the Boisfeuillet Jones awardee for Goizueta Business School. Her leadership efforts began as a student on the Oxford campus, where she was a resident assistant and worked through the Oxford Business Club to ensure that pre-BBA students were aware of, and connected to, Goizueta resources.

Her dedication to enriching the student experience continued in many ways on the Atlanta campus, ranging from membership on the Goizueta BBA Council to finding ways to enhance mentorship programs and strengthen ties between Emory and Oxford Colleges. She was a champion for empowering every student with the opportunity to utilize his or her talents on behalf of the program.

Alexis Perkins, Boisfeuillet Jones Medal awardee for the School of Nursing, outside the School of Nursing

Alexis Perkins

Alexis Perkins is the Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing recipient of the Boisfeuillet Jones Medal. Perkins stood out as an exceptional student, exhibiting qualities that show excellence, collaboration, social responsibility, innovation and leadership.

Perkins excelled in multiple activities while at Emory, embodying excellence in nursing scholarship and responsibility. She is a member of the Sigma Theta Tau National Honor Society and served on the nursing school’s Student Government Association and Alumni Board. Her commitment was especially evident in her role as class president, where she was a willing and necessary voice and an advocate for her cohort during this unprecedented time in health care.

Knights of Emory Spirit Award: Xavier Sayeed and Caroline Wilkinson

The Knights of Emory Spirit Awards, sponsored by the Paladin Society, recognize two outstanding seniors who are unsung heroes/heroines. Students selected for this honor have made great contributions to the university and promote Emory spirit with passion and selflessness.

Xavier Sayeed, Knights of Emory Spirit Award recipient, on Emory's campus

Xavier Sayeed

Xavier Sayeed is a music major with a wide variety of passions. While at Emory he could be found in the music building virtually around the clock, whether working at the front desk, leading the jazz band or participating in concert choir.

He devoted much time to exploring the cultural and musical elements of Israeli Andalusian music, including conducting an ethnographic study and traveling to Israel multiple times for research. Sayeed was active with the Interreligious Council and served as a resident adviser, working tirelessly to meet the needs of the house members and the larger community. In his free time, Sayeed participated with Best Buddies, a program for those with special needs.

Caroline Wilkinson, Knights of Emory Spirit Award recipient, on Emory's campus

Caroline Wilkinson

Caroline Wilkinson earned a double major in strategy and management consulting and religion. Her love for travel and learning about new cultures led her to study and work abroad in Spain, India, Guatemala and Austria.

Wilkinson is president and founder of Good Vibe Tribe, one of Emory’s largest campus organizations that facilitates compassion-based service, arts and educational events. She also was active in Residence Life as a resident adviser and is a wellness and mental health advocate. Her roles at Emory included academic coach, student leader in the Center for Women, treasurer of Turman Hall, member of Emory’s women’s water polo team, singer in the Emory University Chorus and social justice facilitator for Crossroads.

100 Senior Honorary

Each year, the Emory Alumni Board and Student Alumni Board recognize 100 members of the current senior class for their achievements and potential as alumni leaders.

These seniors are known for being campus leaders, thought provokers, dynamic athletes, academic mentors and community influencers. They are committed to their passions and pursuits, and have made significant contributions to the Emory community.

Because the 100 have demonstrated outstanding achievements on campus, they are charged with acting as alumni leaders after graduation, in whatever capacity fits their interests and skills. They might mentor upcoming students, serve as admission representatives, become involved with local alumni chapters, join host committees during reunions or serve on leadership boards. The possibilities for how they might serve Emory in the world are endless.

View the full list of this year’s 100 Senior Honorary.

Wearing white shirts, students pose in the shape of the number 2020
President Sterk holding up a bottle of Coke
Students wearing matching shirts singing
Students Posing in matching shirts during the Oxford Olympics
Wearing white shirts, students pose in the shape of the number 2020
President Sterk holding up a bottle of Coke
Students wearing matching shirts singing
Students Posing in matching shirts during the Oxford Olympics

Back in 2016, the incoming undergraduate Class of 2020 gathered for a group photo on the Emory quad.

President Sterk joined the Class of 2020 as they began their Emory journey with the traditional Coca-Cola toast.

In their first week on campus, Emory College students competed in Songfest, representing their residence halls with choreographed songs.

Oxford College students bonded as first-year students competing in the silly and spirit-filled Oxford Olympics.

View complete coverage of Emory's 175th Commencement

To learn more, please visit Emory University and the Emory News Center

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