Washington State University’s student government president said there is nothing he wanted more than to celebrate spring commencement in person with his peers.

Alas, Curtis Cohen and his fellow classmates had to celebrate this milestone virtually, like the seniors of last year. Though it may not be ideal, he said seniors still should be proud of overcoming the obstacles put in their way because of COVID-19.

“Graduating from any four-year school is a challenge, even more so when we faced unexpected events each day,” he said. “Regardless of how this celebration is delivered, the fact that we graduated under these circumstances should not be overlooked.”

Instead of filling the seats at Martin Stadium like a normal year, families and friends of the graduates were instead invited to watch the ceremony on YouTube. It featured speeches from university leaders, and the names and pictures of the graduates were displayed. The public congratulated the students in real time in the live chat section and in the comments.

In total, 2,263 students participated in the commencement.

Cohen said the events of the past year do not define the class of 2021’s overall experience at WSU, and he commended the students’ perseverance.

“I can tell you one thing we’ve learned during this journey is that nothing in life is easy and the world is just not fair, but Cougs will always prevail,” he said.

WSU President Kirk Schulz also spoke about that perseverance and called the past year “one of the most challenging times in modern history.”

Despite the challenges, he said, there are reasons for hope.

“The Cougar spirit that defines this great university and binds us together is one of the main reasons I feel hopeful about the future,” he said.

Schulz said that spirit is a willingness to work hard to succeed no matter the circumstances. He encouraged students to carry that spirit out into the world.

“Your willingness to confidently step up and tackle our shared challenges fills me with hope,” he said. “Hope for today and hope for our future.”

WSU Provost Elizabeth Chilton said students never could have imagined their final year would be filled with hours of Zoom sessions, face masks and COVID-19 self-attestations.

But this challenging time at WSU has prepared them for the twists and turns of life that lay ahead of them, she said.

“We will remember the resilience and the dedication shown by Cougs time and time again,” she said.

Kuipers can be reached at akuipers@dnews.com.

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