Dear Members of the Class of 2020,

I hope your first week of virtual instruction is off to a good start. Knowing that you are once again learning with your fellow classmates and professors, even at a distance, is a comfort in this unsettling moment.

I know it is painful to have your time together cut short and to miss out on the time-honored rituals of your final year at Washington and Lee. Many of you have continued to hope, as have I, that we might at least be able to conduct Commencement on schedule.

Regrettably, we must postpone Commencement exercises for both the undergraduate and law classes of 2020. On Monday, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam issued a stay-at-home order for all Virginians until June 10. This order, combined with the prevailing guidance from local and national health officials, makes it impossible for us to hold these ceremonies in Lexington in May.

We are determined to celebrate your accomplishments properly. On your original Commencement date, we will hold a virtual event conferring degrees. You will receive your diplomas by mail. We will host a Commencement ceremony on campus, at a date yet to be determined, when it is once again safe to gather.

This is not how any of us envisioned your final year at W&L. It is neither what you want nor what you deserve. As we acknowledge our collective disappointment, let us be inspired by the many examples we see of our students, faculty and staff pulling together, despite our physical distance, to make the most of the opportunities we do have in these unprecedented times.

Our mission at Washington and Lee is to prepare our graduates for lifelong learning, personal achievement, responsible leadership, service to others, and engaged citizenship in a global and diverse society. You are well on your way. And you will make us proud in the months to come, by completing your courses with distinction, supporting your loved ones and your local communities, and emerging from this experience ready to meet the challenges ahead with vision, courage, and grace.

We miss having you on campus. We think of you daily. And we look forward to the glorious occasion when we will celebrate your Commencement together at W&L.

For now, I wish you and your loved ones all the best.

Will Dudley