February 4, 2021

To the members of the MIT community,

I write to share our plans for this year’s Commencement and Reunions, including our Commencement speaker.

Commencement 2021 – online

Our best path to defeating Covid-19 is population-wide vaccination, not only in the US but around the world. We all hope this ongoing process will accelerate! However, the conditions that will allow us to safely resume large public gatherings and celebrations are still many months away.

Therefore, this year’s Commencement ceremony – June 4, 2021 – will be online.

We all hoped for a different outcome. But after careful consultation with the Commencement Committee, student leaders, the deans, and the senior leadership team, and in light of ongoing state public health guidance and restrictions, we concluded that early June was simply too soon to plan a campus gathering of thousands. So we are now busy creating an enhanced version of last year’s virtual event.

To the members of the Class of 2021: After nearly a year of adapting over and over to Covid conditions, I suspect this decision may come as no surprise. But I also expect that for you, and for your families, it still feels sharply disappointing.

Please know that we are intensely focused on making June’s online Commencement event meaningful, memorable and delightful. And we are equally committed to creating a special celebration for you – and for the Class of 2020 – in person, in the future, once it is safe to do so.

Commencement speaker: Bryan Stevenson

As announced in The Tech this morning, a high point of this spring’s online celebration will be our remarkable Commencement speaker, Bryan Stevenson, founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, author of the best-selling memoir Just Mercy and visionary creator of the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, which commemorates the Black victims of lynching in the United States.

At MIT, our mission calls on us to work for the betterment of humankind. Revealing and overturning societal injustice and inspiring others to join in this essential human struggle has been Professor Stevenson’s life’s work. At a moment of such great upheaval, injustice and suffering in our society, I cannot imagine a more important and motivating voice to address our graduates and our larger community.

You can read more about Professor Stevenson’s work on MIT News.

Reunions 2021 – online

MIT Reunions for 2021 will also be conducted online; the MIT Alumni Association will share more details soon with classes celebrating five-year milestone reunions. Although online events cannot match the pleasure of gathering in person, we found an unexpected benefit to holding last year’s reunions virtually: They attracted a record number of alumni attendees from around the world, including many who might not have traveled to campus otherwise. We hope to welcome even more participation in our annual reunion ritual this spring!

With high hopes for the day when grand gatherings are safe again and we can celebrate our brilliant graduates in person and in style –

Sincerely,

L. Rafael Reif