Stanford’s Commencement plans announced for 2021

In a message to the campus community, President Marc Tessier-Lavigne addresses how Stanford will celebrate the Class of 2021, as well as the timing for the announcement of spring quarter plans.

To our Stanford community,

With fall quarter behind us and winter quarter now well underway, I want to look ahead and provide an update about Stanford’s Commencement 2021 plans.

First, I know that many of you who are interested in Commencement are also keenly interested in our undergraduate plans for the spring quarter as a whole. We previously shared that we would provide an update the week of March 1. At the request of students, we are moving that timing earlier; we now intend to be in touch with you about the undergraduate spring quarter during the week of Feb. 22-26. The exact date that week depends upon the availability of data needed to inform our spring quarter decision-making. Thank you for your continued understanding.

We can, however, share with you now the latest about Commencement. And here is the difficult reality: Although we are seeing some hopeful signs in the trajectory of COVID-19, we do not realistically expect large in-person gatherings to be possible in Santa Clara County by this June.

We are therefore planning a virtual celebration for the weekend of June 11-13. The main campus-wide celebration will be streamed on the web on Sunday, June 13, at 10 a.m. Pacific Time, and there will be additional virtual events and activities during the weekend. In addition, we will work with students to explore what opportunities for smaller in-person social gatherings will be possible during Commencement Weekend under the public health rules in effect at the time.

I know this will be sad news for many. Students and families look forward to Commencement for years, and especially for those who have endured the many sacrifices of this pandemic, a traditional Commencement would be wonderful to celebrate.

I want to emphasize that we are committed to doing all that we can to make this a meaningful celebration and to honor our graduates for their accomplishments. We have been working with the leadership of the senior class and the ASSU, including the Graduate Student Council, as well as other campus partners to develop the content and plans for the celebration. We will continue to do so, drawing on student input to plan as joyous, engaging and personal an experience as possible under the constraints of the pandemic.

We still believe strongly in the importance of gathering together in-person to mark one’s graduation from Stanford. We are committed to developing an in-person celebration for our 2021 graduates when conditions allow. And I want to reaffirm that we remain committed to an in-person celebration for our 2020 graduates, who also had a virtual celebration last year.

Details about speakers and other activities for Commencement Weekend will be announced as we get closer. Some questions you may have now are addressed in these FAQs on the Commencement website. 

Again, our expectations about restrictions on large in-person gatherings that have made us plan for a virtual ceremony do not in themselves preclude bringing back juniors and seniors for the spring quarter. We will be in touch with you on that subject the week of Feb. 22-26. But we wanted to provide this information about Commencement at the earliest opportunity for your planning.

The last eleven months have brought so many disruptions. I have endless appreciation for the determination and perseverance our students have shown as the challenges have multiplied and grown in complexity. While our celebration on June 13 will not be the Commencement we hoped for, it will allow us to honor the accomplishments of our graduates and share our warmest wishes as they go out to make their mark in a changed world – with the promise of coming together again in the future.


Marc Tessier-Lavigne