Commencement Celebrates the Class of 2021, and the Class of 2020, in Person
May 9, 2021
By Jake Weber
A truly perfect spring day set the stage for Albion’s 2021 Commencement and 2020 in-person Commencement, both held on May 8. Some 350 members, with their families, attended the 2021 Commencement while later more than 50 members of the Class of 2020 represented the nearly 300 students who earned their degrees during the first weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“When I learned I would become the 17th president of Albion, I never could have imagined this year,” said President Mathew Johnson, whose Albion tenure began in July 2020. Referencing everything from takeout dining to completely new models of classroom instruction, Johnson praised the students’ ability to adapt and thrive in pursuit of their education.
“Through it all you supported each other,” he remarked. “That support is the first thing I hope you remember.… Together you rose to the occasion and demonstrated what it means to be a Brit.”
“Albion students are known for two key things: our engagement in the communities around us, and the vast expanse of causes, activities and events we take part in,” said Latrell Crenshaw, ’21, delivering the senior address. “On this day, and in this moment, we transition from being the heirs of humanity’s promise, to being its caretakers.… The tasks ahead will not always be easy, but we are capable of meeting them,” he concluded. “We have already done it here. Now we go on to do it everywhere.”
Past Board of Trustees Chair Don Sheets, ’82, and his wife, Angela Scott Sheets, ’82, were each honored during the Class of 2021 ceremony with the Briton Medallion. Describing the couple as “Britons of action,” current Board Chair Michael Harrington, ’85, stated that “for 30 years, they have helped launch new programs, partnerships and capital improvements to make Albion a shining light for learning and leadership.”
In delivering the faculty farewell, Dr. Ian MacInnes, professor of English, noted the newest graduates’ achievements as scholars, researchers, club members and activists. “When I welcomed you to Albion (at 2017 Matriculation), I told you that your job was to learn to imagine so well that when I came back on stage to give you the farewell from the faculty, you would inspire me. I can tell you that you have succeeded. We are inspired by the future that you have asked us to help you imagine.”
The literary scholar concluded with words of wisdom from a galaxy far, far away. “Strong is Vader. Mind what you have learned,” MacInnes said. “Save you it can.”
In her second farewell to the Class of 2020 (the first was for last year’s virtual Commencement), Dr. Nicolle Zellner, the Herbert H. & Grace A. Dow Trustees’ Professor in the Sciences and chair of the Physics Department, reflected on the day’s unique circumstances.
“You’re the first class to have a virtual Commencement, the first to have two graduation ceremonies, and the first class to be honored as graduates by two different college presidents,” she said, noting other Albion “firsts,” including the first woman admitted to the University of Michigan, the first president of Western Michigan University, the first African-American president of Eastern Michigan University, and the only MIAA athlete to participate in the Olympics.
“There are so many graduates who did and do amazing things, and you will, too,” Zellner said. “You have an amazing toolkit to solve problems, tackle challenges, make memories. Go out into the world and do great things. And remember, Albion College will be waiting for you to come home—like you did today.”