A Historic Graduation

USC Marshall and Leventhal students “walk” for Commencement in online celebrations

May 15, 2020

USC Marshall of Business celebrated its class of 2020 in three separate online celebrations, Friday, May 15, 2020. 

In a historic first, USC postponed its traditional Commencement ceremonies due to the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent lock down, which closed the entire campus and sent all classes online. 

USC held its Commencement celebration in a widely seen online presentation, complete with well-wishing deans, trustees and alumni. USC President Dr. Carol L. Folt presided over her first commencement—remotely. 

“You are a remarkable group of individuals, with an extraordinary education, and living in a remarkable time when extraordinary things are both needed, and possible,” she said. “Your moment has arrived, and you are up to the task.”

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Each school at USC was charged with producing a virtual celebration for its own graduates. At the Marshall School, undergraduate, graduate and the Leventhal School of Accounting each produced a 30-minute “celebration.”  

“The ceremony may have been canceled, but your future is still good! Even though you may not walk across the stage this year, the stage is set for your success."—DeVon Franklin '00

The undergraduate celebration began at 10:30 a.m. Interim Dean Gareth James, in full academic regalia, opened the program.

“When the history books are written about this period, they will certainly note how it produced some of our greatest leaders,” said James.  “You will shape business and industry in the years to come, and you will find solutions where others see roadblocks, and you will face challenges with creativity and determination. That is the Marshall way, the USC way. That is most certainly the Trojan Way.”

The undergraduate celebration featured a slideshow of student photos, and recorded messages of congratulations from professors, staff, alumni…and a few VIPs, including Steve Ballmer, owner of the LA Clippers and serial entrepreneur, Joc Pederson of the Los Angeles Dodgers and DeVon Franklin ’00, who was the undergraduate Commencement speaker in 2019. 

“The ceremony may have been canceled, but your future is still good!” he said. “Even though you may not walk across the stage this year, the stage is set for your success. This pandemic has not taken your purpose. Your purpose is still good. Your future is still good. So right on, and Fight On!”

The Graduate celebration began at 11 a.m., and was opened by Suh-Pyng Ku, Vice Dean for Graduate Programs and professor of clinical finance and business administration. It featured congratulations by professors, staff and alumni, as well as student leaders. 

The Leventhal celebration took place at 11:30, opened by Dean William H. Holder, and anchored by featured speaker alumnus Joseph B. Ucuzoglu, CEO of Deloitte U.S.

Students of all programs were sent special Zoom invites, while the program was simulcast on YouTube for friends and family around the globe to watch. 

“USC did a fantastic job of making the best of the situation,” said Daniel Perez-Kowalski ’20, who watched with his family from his home in Newport Beach, Calif.  “I appreciated the congratulations and well-wishes from the multitude of alumni and friends of the university. I know everyone is looking forward to our in-person graduation when we can finally celebrate our accomplishments together as one Trojan family!”

Former dean James G. Ellis, who was a familiar face to senior undergraduates for most of their time at Marshall, addressed the graduates. 

“We don’t give these degrees away,” he said. “You know how hard it is to get in, and you know how hard it is to get out! And you’ve done it. You’ve earned it. You are a college graduate. You are a USC alum. You did it.”